New fizz on the Brock

Brock U. CCOVI Sparkling Wine Technical Symposium Photo: http://brocku.ca/ccovi/

Brock U. CCOVI Sparkling Wine Technical Symposium
Photo: http://brocku.ca/ccovi/

The Ontario Sparkling Wine Technical Symposium. Like a Trekkie convention for oenophiles. To a wine geek it was eight hours spent searching for the meaning of life. To a consumer who just likes to drink it would have been time lost forever with no chance to get it back. The Brock University Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute’s Pond Inlet was the setting. The presentations were very technical, that is until Dr. Jamie Goode took the podium and breathed context into the room.

According to the LCBO, in 2013, sales in Vintages of VQA sparkling wine were up 59.2 per cent from 2012 sales data. In Canada there are 36 wineries producing sparkling wine and that number is growing. As it should.

The abstruse conditions of the #ONfizz event set the table as a vocational assurance draw for Ontario winemakers, viticulture and viniculture research specialists. Seated at my table were a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker. That should be loosely translated as a scientist (Dr. Jim Willwerth), a product manager (LCBO’s Ontario expert Astrid Brummer) and two winemakers (Hinterland’s Jonas Newman and Gaspereau Vineyards’ Gina Haverstock).

Brock’s Dr. Debbie Inglis introduced Bertrand Robillard, Ph.d., Director of Research and Development at the Institut Oenologique de Champagne. Before getting to the subject at hand, on disgorging, gushing and foaming, he first laid an open attack on beer. “The form is always better in a crystal glass,” insisted Robillard. For Champagne. Not beer. “That’s just false. It’s just appearance. People in Champagne do not appreciate this kind of resolute,” comparing the pouring of Champagne to beer.

Then on to Sparkling wine’s integral and necessary marketing draw. Bubbles. “No dishwashing,” begged Robillard. “It’s a very efficient way to kill the foam.” By principle, to have foam you need bubbles. It’s all about stabilizing the foam. High ethanol (five per cent) in fizz is good content for foam stabilization. CO2 (protein concentration and polysaccharides) all contribute to stability.

So why do the bubbles collapse? Why do they not make it from the centre to the wall of the glass? Why is a hole in the middle created and the bubbles fall into the hole and disappear? The answer is gushing. A “shameful disease” that can be considered as a disequilibrium between foam formation and foam collapse. Bubbles cannot exist if their radius are less than 0.1 microns, or they will dissolve into the wine. Bubbles are detached when gravity forces are higher than capillary forces.

The conclusion? Surface area and CO2 are the driving force behind gushing. Contaminations inside the wall of the bottle must be eliminated. Oxygen heterogeneity is essential, even more so more than CO2 and sugar. The news that there is no relationship between wine composition and gushing means winemakers can make the Sparkling wine style of their choosing. The representative from Champagne said so.

Next up was Ed Carr, Sparkling winemaker, Accolade wines in Australia. Carr plies his trade in Tasmania. Not the Tasmania of The English Passengers full of exiled convicts, invading Brits, sinister men like Dr. Thomas Potter and his thesis about the races of men. No, Carr makes bubbles on an island quickly becoming a (vinous) garden of Eden, known to a heroic aboriginal and envisioned by Reverend Geoffrey Wilson. Carr explained the company’s choice of locale. “These (cold and mostly maritime influenced climate) numbers are a gross simplification of what the world is really like, but this is why we went to Tasmania, looking at that 1000 number for heat degree days.”

On spacing: “The guy growing your vines is likely using the same tractor to grow spuds.” On vineyard management: “Lots of leaf plucking done, bunch thinning…canopy management is key. Supplemental irrigation a must.” On Sparkling wine stylistic choices: “Oxidation is a big thing, a real style choice. Chilling picked fruit reduces phenolic extraction and oxidation but also reduces fruit.”

On flaws: “Brettanomyces I refer to the ‘black death of Europe’ for wine. The little buggers love sulphur dioxide conditions. Residual sugar left in the bottle on the way to second fermentation helps the yeasts on their way. Rapid ferment and as dry as possible is the way to go.”

On closures: “I don’t really think you apply screw cap closure trials from still wines to sparkling. It does not translate to the reductive character of sparkling. We primarily believe in the use of traditional cork, with some agglomerate closure usage.”

Third speaker was Larry Mawby of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula L. Mawby Vineyards. “The thing that I realized was negatively impacting on my ability to make good sparkling wine was the fact that I wasn’t just making sparkling wine.” The response from Hinterland’s (Prince Edward County Sparkling wine maker) Jonas Newman. “I like his style.” I can hear you thinking, Sparkling wine in Michigan? More than this. Mawby makes 21 different renditions, with the usual suspects, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in traditional ways. He also goes at it Charmat-style with Riesling, Pinot Gris and Vignoles. Not to mention Cayuga, Vidal, Regent, Marechal Foch and Muscat in the Cuve Close method.

Continued Mawby, “in this century we’ve made nothing but sparkling wines.” During the terrible winter of 2003 there were temperatures of 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) and below. “Killed any vine not beneath the snow. I panicked.” So Mawby added his ‘Cuve Closed’ a bulk production, Charmat-style sparkling wine. On the technicalities of making fizz: “I don’t believe the chemistry of fruit should be your guideline. What does the fruit taste like?” On varietal integrity: “Almost nobody on the planet buys Sparkling wine based on grape variety.”

Jamie Goode, Ph.D., London-based wine writer (www.wineanorak.com) and wine columnist, The Sunday Express talked on wine closures and purchaser perception of local, national and international sparkling wines. Mostly he spoke about incontestable truths.

On closures: “Traditional is best but the Mytik in an excellent alternative.” It now closes 192 million of 6 billion bottles. The Crown Cap? “Yes, why not? It’s recognizable, like beer and comfortable. With the right liner it’s OTR transmission is very acceptable.” Dr. Goode’s closure talk resulted in some wine writer comedy.

On the world’s most famous fizz: “Champagne can be wonderful, but there’s some ropey stuff coming to the UK. With Champagne, your expectation is everything.” On Cava, “People don’t really like it. It’s made in the traditional method and it should be a really good product but it’s trying to be something it’s not.”

On vintage dated bubbles, Goode spoke from an unequivocal marketing perspective. “People don’t really care about vintage.” On the emerging Canadian and British sparkling wine industries. “Do English or Canadian wines need a special name?” No.”

On the now-universal nomenclature: “Sparkling wine has become an accepted one, not a pejorative one.” Goode’s perspective is always fresh, nearly cynical and full of truth. On leaving the country he bade farewell with thanks.

Participants also had the opportunity to taste two sparkling wine research trials that are currently underway at local wineries as well as a comparative blind tasting.  The blind tasting presented a selection of local and international Sparkling wines and Champagnes and was moderated by Jamie Goode.  The three flights featured Blanc de Blancs, Cuvée/blends and alternative varieties. Thank you can never be said too many times to Barbara Tatarnic, Magdalena Kaiser-Smit and Trisha Molokach for their generosity in invitation and unwavering hospitality. I am always humbled to be included in their warm world of wine.

I will admit that I would have liked to see more Ontario representation in the flights, as well as at least one example from both British Columbia and especially Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley. With that emerging region and vintners like Benjamin Bridge and Gaspereau Vineyards on the Sparkling stardom stage/horizon, including their wines would have upped the complexity factor tenfold. Not to mention something British. New York State’s Finger Lakes (Chateau Frank Célèbre) and North Fork of Long Island’s (Sparkling Pointe Brut Seduction) should definitely be players in the next #ONfizz symposium.

Brock University CCOVI Sparkling Wine Technical Symposium

Brock University CCOVI Sparkling Wine Technical Symposium

Sparkling Wine Trial Tasting – Unfinished samples from Trius Wines

  1. Trius Base on lees two years. Chardonnay (70 per cent), Pinot Noir (25), Pinot Meunier (5). Each (cane sugar) dosage was 20 mL towards an end of 8 g/L of residual sugar. Barrel fermentation and barrel aging leans this towards an oxidixed style. Arid, high in citrus and high-toned oak character.
  2. Blanc de Noirs 2009. Left on the lees for four years. Use of cane sugar. Less giving and resolute in micro-wood spice. This sample is from the oldest (sparkling) wine in their cellar.
  3. From the Trius Brut wine. Dosage again with cane sugar. Acts the most polished and finished, the most accomplished. This is the rock and the anchor.

Comparative Blind Tasting – Flight 1: Blanc de Blanc

Family Estate Cuvée No. 1 Blanc De Blancs NV, Méthode Traditionelle, Marlborough, New Zealand (56358, $34.95, WineAlign)

The sample poured at the OSWTS was unfortunately corked but here was my previous review: “Aromatic rhetoric would argue this Marlborough bottle of bubbles is a ringer for classic Blanc de Blancs. Promises pleasure and class from the first whiff. Decidedly lemon citrus tight and stony until an herbal, splintered, stemmy tarragon balm takes over, rendering the wine more of its place than what it tries to emulate. Still, a really terrific effort.”  Tasted November 2013  @oenophilia1

From left to right: L. Mawby Vineyards Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay NV, Cave Spring Blanc De Blancs Brut, Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2008, Drappier Signature Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne, House of Arras Blanc de Blancs 2004

From left to right: L. Mawby Vineyards Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay NV, Cave Spring Blanc De Blancs Brut, Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2008, Drappier Signature Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne, House of Arras Blanc de Blancs 2004

L. Mawby Vineyards Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay NV, Michigan, USA (winery, US $23)

Like distilled white Swedish berries high on acidity. Herbal, tight, gainful simplicity. Pear ciderish and clear as a cool climate bell.  @mibubbly

Angels Gate Archangel Chardonnay Brut 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (227009, $21.95, WineAlign)

A not so dry (9.8 g/L residual sugar) stylistic choice leads this angel to sparkling late harvest territory with ripe orchard fruit that buzzes with terpenes, surface bruises and slight oxidized notes. The archangel rolls over a knife’s edge and sits too long in the sun but it’s neither cut nor cooked. There is beauty in its 90’s big hair, big sound and you might tell her that “tears drop like diamonds from your golden eyes.” There’s yet a spring in her step and a hay note from afield.  Tasted May 2014  @angelsgatewines

House of Arras Blanc de Blancs 2004, Tasmania, Australia (winery, $80 AUS)

Big barrel oak influence leaves splinters in the mouth, albeit gentle and dissolvable ones. Creamy and chalky like ice cream made from tea. Not much yeast and biscuit activity as it’s all about fruit and barrel.  @AccoladeWinesAU

Cave Spring Blanc De Blancs Brut, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (213983, $29.95, WineAlign)

The freshest style of the #ONfizz B de B flight. Fruit, escarpment bench stone layering, richesse, biscuits and toast are all in. Acidity meets complexity. From my earlier, December 2012 note: “Sees no malolactic fermentation and sits at the top end of dry (12-14 dosage). Most of the fruit is 2008, despite the NV designation. A soda fountain of argon and nitrogen bunsens forth through clean lines and carries an entire cider house orchard of Spartan apple. This one certainly hints at Champagne-like characteristics, of brioche and toast. The apples never relent.”  Last tasted May 2014  @CaveSpring

Drappier Signature Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne, Ac, Champagne, France (599860, $46.95, WineAlign)

Here showing a bruised apple note with the lees and PH on steroids. Fruit seems to be in from a less than stellar vintage and so the lack of consistency is disappointing. “It’s a style,” says Jonas Newman. “He’s a natural wine guy.” NV Champagne needs aggregate scoring so my 90 comes down. From my earlier, April 2013 note: “Continues a VINTAGES string of excellent value in Champagne releases. Made from 100% Chardonnay, this BdB is pronounced in , yeasty dough definition, hinting at agave and unwashed cheese rind. Where there’s bubbles there’s a way and I like where this one is going. The agave replays in sweet waves, as does the sour in faint yet discernible sloshes. Much to contemplate in this NV sparkler.” Last Tasted May 2014

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2008, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Méthode Traditionnelle, Ontario (315200, $44.95, WineAlign)

Rocks the driest end of the free world Blanc de Blanc spectrum. Lets carte blanche reign in a taut style and reeks of a minimum four years of autolytic lees activity. In that sense it loses some of its sense of place, in Catherine’s case that Short Hills Bench clay-silt-loam-gravel agglomeration. The soil composition usually brings vigor and richness to Chardonnay but here as a sparkling wine the sensation is of citrus soaked concrete. Racy bubbles of intensity that do not quite match the weight and elegance of the 2007.   @HenryofPelham

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, Fielding Estate Brut NV, Cattier Brut Premier Cru, Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne, House of Arras Rosé 2005

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, Fielding Estate Brut NV, Cattier Brut Premier Cru, Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne, House of Arras Rosé 2005

Comparative Blind Tasting – Flight 2: Blends

Fielding Estate Brut NV, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

An impressive debut for winemaker Richie Roberts and team. This is a classic Chardonnay (55 per cent) and Pinot Noir (45) cuvée from Fielding’s Tufford Road vineyard. A surprisingly rich example, toasty and with a sweet meets sweaty, minty-herbiage. A primer for even greater vintages (this is essentially 2009) to come, where the focus will be more on yeast fielding to citrus and less about yielding to a non-metallic elemental finish.   @FieldingWinery

L. Mawby Vineyards Talismon NV, Michigan, USA (winery, US $37)

Tasted blind this strikes out as heteromorphic fizz from less than charted territory (like Michigan) with juicy, hybrid acting histrionics. Though it’s actually a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay it lacks vinifera varietal complexity. The fruit is clear and fair but the méthode champenoise brings no enzymatic or citric display.

Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne, France (325167, $43.95, WineAlign)

Here is a cuvée of égalité that combines one-third each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Like the varietal make-up, these slightly reductive yet elegant bubbles offer up thirds of brioche, toast and demi-glacé. Fashioned from the 2006 harvest with reserve wine added and aged in oak. Chic and affordable but in no shape or form a knock off of the real deal. There’s a theoretical Champagne void within filled with citrus, sharp ginger and pungent spice. Blessed with unmatched length as compared to the others in the #ONfizz cuvée flight.

House of Arras Grand Vintage 2004, Tasmania, Australia (winery, $60 AUS)

“A polarizing wine,” notes winemaker Ed Carr. Full of savoury, herbal notes but also the unmistakable scent of that other white meat. The cure is indeed a porcine one, sweating in a hung game way, which gives this fizz such an old-world, old cellar quality. A slow (spring) malolactic evolution in barrel gives this (65.9 percent) Chardonnay and (34.1) Pinot Noir its silky, milky feel. Good to even better than good length.

Cattier Brut Premier Cru, Champagne, France (325720, $44.60, WineAlign)

This is really bitter, in a really good way. The nobility in brine is likely a result of whole (non-separated) bunch pressing, the Pinot Noir skins impart giving the fruity must its resident bitterness. A highly distinctive style of high caste and longevity, composed of Pinot Meunier (45 per cent), Pinot Noir  (35) and Chardonnay (25). As deep as any tasted at #ONfizz 2014.

Château Des Charmes Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (224766, $22.95, WineAlign)

Chardonnay (75 per cent) and Pinot Noir (25) at an attractive price. Attacks with a gently cloying, weeping sweetness, string-bending terpenes and fades out with a savoury, bitter finish. Light, approachable and wide-reaching style. Bubbles with broad appeal.   @MBosc

House of Arras Rosé 2005, Tasmania, Australia (winery, $60 AUS)

The composition here is Pinot Noir (62.5 per cent) and Chardonnay (37.5) from pickings in Lower Derwent, Upper Derwent and the Houn Valley. Emerges out of a year where warmer temperatures coaxed an increase of richer fruit from the rounder and fatter white grape. Good lees effect (seven years) in 2005 and also a balmy tarragon accent atop strawberry, verging to cherry fruit. Finishes with expert balancing acidity, this fizz trumps its Blanc de Blanc and Grand Vintage sistren at this tasting.

From left to right: Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut, Girls' Night Out Sparkling, Giusti Brut Prosecco Asolo, Brédif Brut Vouvray NV, Hinterland Ancestral 2013

From left to right: Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut, Girls’ Night Out Sparkling, Giusti Brut Prosecco Asolo, Brédif Brut Vouvray NV, Hinterland Ancestral 2013

Comparative Blind Tasting – Flight 3: Alternative Varieties

Trius at Hillebrand Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, (winery, $35.20)

Spent 12 months ageing ‘sur lie’ in the estate’s underground sparkling caves. Winemaker Craig McDonald comments to the negative effect of light on bubbles. “Light strike causes a serious reaction on sparkling wine.” Here a mephitic aroma should likely be attributed to reduction or the beam of sunlight blanketing the room. There is a resinous salinity to this SB that does not want to blow off. Needs to be revisited from 2015 to 2018.

Green Extra-Sec by M. Lawrence, Michigan, USA (winery, $15)

The Green is part of Larry Mawby’s colourful, sexy and artfully named M. Lawrence investigation into the diversity of Sparkling wine. Absurdly dry, this put together Vidal and Cayuga concept is all about musky grape dehydration. Its cool climate constitution rescues the fruit to rehydrate and act like an orange picked straight from the greenhouse tree. There’s a malic medicinal tone that buries the sweet (17 g/L residual), resulting in a tart, low in alcohol, unwoven bottle of slim bubble.

Girls’ Night Out Sparkling, Ontario VQA, Ontario, Canada (215632, $14.95, WineAlign)

Here is a modest and useful 100% Riesling, Charmat Method, Cuve Close bottle of fizz from Lake Erie North Shore producer Colio Estates. With a residual remainder of nearly 20 g/L it falls into the off-dry category with aromatic notes that stroll directly through Ontario orchards. Tasty, easy to enjoy and smelling peculiarly like bubble gum. Well-made, good quality bubbles nouveau.

Giusti Brut Prosecco Asolo DOCG, Veneto, Italy (agent, $20.99, WineAlign)

A 100 per cent Glera, from Veneto’s Montello and the Asolo hills. As per Giusti’s description, this definitive Prosecco is “appropriately evanescent, with fine and lingering perlage.” Though reserved on the nose, the palate is very lively. A case in point for any aridity-driven examples to follow.

Brédif Brut Vouvray NV, Loire, France (352179, $20.95, WineAlign)

A touch yeasty, with citrus and large bubbles. Good verve, complex palate with a Champagne bent, or at least a toasted sentiment. From my earlier, November 2013 note: “Arid, frothy and fitful, atomically speaking. White peach and preceding spring flowers. Charcoal rubbed, also clean and fine. Sparkling Chenin Blanc done right.”  Last tasted May 2014

Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut, Hungary (619288, $12.25, WineAlign)

A more than interesting set of aromatics define and drive this blend of Királyleányka Rizling (Rhine Riesling), Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A stinky, reductive twang is joined by peach, rubber, pencil, duff and sandy sediment. Although the palate is a bit dullish with a taste of wet concrete there thickens a liqueur-like viscous texture to win sweet hearts. Would win even more were the residual (9 g/L) even higher.

Hinterland Ancestral 2013, Prince Edward County (winery, $25, WineAlign)

Released back in October of 2013, the Ancestral is what Hinterland’s Vicky Samaras refers to as the “unicorn” or the “babymaker.” This is Gamay Noir in postal service of the ancient process known as méthode ancestrale. Fermentation, which produces the carbon dioxide, occurs in the bottle and lees disgorgement is skipped. Hinterland’s Ancrestral brings sweet currant jelly, strawberry and mint notes (36 g/L residual sugar) to a wine low in alcohol (8 per cent) yet high in balancing (7.8 g/L) natural acidity. The components are all lifted to such great heights. A babymaker because the aromatics, palate, texture and finish “are mirror images and when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned.”

 

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Wine experts Brock and roll, Brock on

Wine tasting

The Expert’s Tasting is more than just a study on Niagara wine.
Photo: JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images

as seen on canada.com

Part two: 25th anniversary of the Cuvée 2014 Expert’s Tasting at Brock University

Flights three, four and five: Pinot Noir, Red Blends and Wine Options.

Related – When experts break wine together

The Expert’s Tasting is more than just a study on Niagara wine. It eulogizes what came before, reflects back on what is lost and ultimately asks the questions, “Where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?” Grow grapes, make wine. Rock on.

The Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute now lays claim to being the central hub of information and guidance for Niagara’s wine industry. In partnership and in sharing expertise with Wine Country Ontario, the Grape Growers of Ontario, the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, VQA Ontario and Niagara Culinary College, Brock’s CCOVI is the go to rock, central to Niagara’s world-class wine growing soil.

In 2015, the annual Cuvée gala weekend, one of the most prestigious celebrations of Ontario wine and food, will now be organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). The theme will be a look forward to Ontario’s significant wine styles and emerging varieties. Props to that.

The #CCOVI event continued the task of celebrating the annual VQA Promoters awards, handed out to the individuals who supported and promoted the industry through media, the LCBO, at large and over the course of a lifetime.  The 2014 awards were handed out to William Mancini, Lloyd Schmidt, Erik Peacock, Shawn McCormick, David Lawrason and posthumously, care of his wife Rose Lamas-Churchill, to David Churchill.

#CCOVI Expert's Tasting Pinot Noir Flight

PHOTO: Michael Godel
#CCOVI Expert’s Tasting Pinot Noir Flight

At the Expert’s Tasting wines were poured blind. The third and fourth flights (Pinot Noir and Red blends respectively) showcased just how far Niagara has travelled in fashioning quality reds. The Pinot Flight was all about balance and elegance. Bench Pinot stands out like a beacon on the Escarpment’s shelves. Blends centred around Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are excelling with each passing vintage, in kind to the ever-increasing wine acumen of the growers and winemakers. That and the macro-intense studies of Niagara’s micro-terroirs.

This final flight of five wines (in order, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend) made for a less confounding competitive round, which was not the case in 2013. I clearly found vicarious fortune through the mates at my table. It’s not just who you know, but who’s palate you draft behind.

Here are my notes on the final 19 wines poured at the Expert’s Tasting 2014.

FLIGHT #3 – YOU’VE BEEN PINOT’D!!

From left: Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2012, Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve 2011, 13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2010, and Fielding Estate Pinot Noir Jackrabbit Flats Vineyard 2010

From left: Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2012, Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve 2011, 13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2010, and Fielding Estate Pinot Noir Jackrabbit Flats Vineyard 2010

Presented by Dr. Belinda Kemp, CCOVI Scientist, Oenology. “There is nothing funny about Pinot Noir,” she complains in deadpan humour, “it’s the unfunny grape. Fascinating, but nothing to laugh at. It’s not funny at all.”

Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2012, Tamar Ridge, Tasmania, Australia (317966, $23.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

A good fresh start to the flight. At first earthless, weightless, cran-raspberry scented. Feminine, warm, inviting and then turning temperamental, difficult, evolving. Ultimately maternal, clay-influenced, brought down to mother earth. Vanilla ringer.  87  Tasted March 2014  @BrownBrothers

Un bon nouveau départ à la (troisième de l’expert de dégustation) vol. Au début Earthless, en apesanteur, cran-framboise parfumée. Féminine, chaleureuse, accueillante et puis, se tournant capricieux, difficile, en constante évolution. En fin de compte maternelle, argile influencé, ramené à la terre mère. Vanille sonnerie.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

In a vintage potentially muddled by warmth and a humidor of radio frequency, duplicating berry phenolics, Flat Rock’s Gravity remains a definitive, signature house Pinot Noir. In 2011, the head of the FR class from its most expressive barrels shared the limelight (and top juice) with the Pond, Bruce and Summit one-offs. In ’12, Gravity’s sandbox was its own. The style is surely dark, extracted, black cherry bent, as per the vintage. Yet only the Rock’s soil does earth in this variegate, borne and elevated by the barrel’s grain. There are no fake plastic trees in a Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity always wins.”  90  Tasted March 2014  @Brighlighter1

Dans un millésime potentiellement confus par la chaleur et une cave de la fréquence de la radio, la duplication des composés phénoliques des baies, la gravité de Flat Rock reste un définitif, maison de signature Pinot Noir. En 2011, la tête de la classe FR de ses barils les plus expressifs partage la vedette (et le jus dessus) avec les mesures ponctuelles Pond, Bruce et Summit. En ’12, bac à sable de gravité était son propre. Le style est certainement foncé, extrait, pliée de cerise noire, selon le millésime. Pourtant, seulement le sol de la roche ne terre dans ce variegata, porté et élevé par le grain du baril. Il n’y a pas d’arbres en plastique faux dans un Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity gagne toujours.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

A by-product of a rain-heat-rain, cold soak-warm ferment-16 month French barrel childhood. The ’11 Reserve Pinot is impressively floral while simultaneously brooding and serious. The middle palate binds citrus and savoury, gilded, dulcet rose, Langhe-like. Breakdown happens late, in syrupy alcohol and charred pulp. “In that case I’ll have a rum and coca-cola.” Complex Pinot for the common people88  Tasted March 2014  @InniskillinWine

Un sous-produit d’une pluie-chaleur-pluie, le froid tremper-chaud ferment-16 mois baril français enfance. Le ’11 Réserve Pinot est alors impressionnante floral simultanément couvaison et grave. Le milieu de bouche se lie d’agrumes et salé, doré, rose suave, Langhe-comme. Répartition arrive en retard, dans l’alcool sirupeux et pâte carbonisée. “Dans ce cas, je vais avoir un rhum et de coca-cola.” Pinot complexe pour les gens ordinaires.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir ‘Le Grande Reserve’ 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $65, WineAlign)

The Thomas Bachelder mentored, two-vineyard assemblage Grande Reserve Pinot Noir grinds more cracked pepper than any predecessor. Every barrel from the Twenty Mile Bench (formerly Le Clos Jordanne’s, Neudorf Family La Petite Colline Vineyard) and Mountainview vineyard were scrutinized to determine the final blend. Bachelder sees black fruit in the early life yet despite the ebullient seasoning, the LGR’s genes are intrinsically feminine. Red cherry, tellus fertility and a mother’s strength hold the family of barrel children together. This is an ambitious and hard to read Pinot Noir. Judgement reserved for five years before the word classic will be used.  92  Tasted March 2014  @QueylusVin

Le Thomas Bachelder mentor, l’assemblage de deux vignoble Grande Réserve Pinot Noir broie poivre craqué plus que ses prédécesseurs. Chaque baril de Lincoln Lakeshore (anciennement Le Clos Jordanne de, Neudorf famille La Petite Colline Vineyard) et le Twenty Mile Bench (Mountainview) appellations ont été examinées attentivement afin de déterminer l’assemblage final. Bachelder voit fruits noirs dans le début de la vie et pourtant, malgré l’assaisonnement bouillante, les gènes de la LGR sont intrinsèquement féminin. Rouge cerise, tellus la fertilité et la force de la mère détiennent la famille des enfants de baril ensemble. Il s’agit d’un Pinot Noir ambitieux et difficile à lire. Jugement réservé pendant cinq ans avant le mot classique sera utilisé.  Dégusté Mars 2014

13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (237222, $44.95, WineAlign)

Five months have aged the Essence with more bronzing minerality and core strength. Imagine the old-world chemistry it will enumerate after five more years. Previous note: “Only the second coming of The Essence. Lucid, willing and able Pinot Noir from an assemblage of fruit sourced across the region. Atypical in that sense, speaking to a broader range of terroir and to a wider audience. Breadth and depth much like a Côte de Beaune, earthy of serious dirt layered over top a cherry core. Attention now and for five plus years is needed because though to taste it’s currently confounding, time will see more complexity, development and emerging emotion. It will then solicit a cry of  ”baby, sweet baby, you’re my drug. Come on and let me taste your stuff.”  91  Tasted October 2013 and March 2014  @13thStreetWines

Cinq mois ont vieilli l’essence avec plus de minéralité de bronzage et la force de base. Imaginez la chimie du vieux monde, il va énumérer après cinq années de plus. Note précédente:… “Seule la seconde venue de l’Essence Lucid, désireux et capables Pinot Noir à partir d’un assemblage de fruits provenant de toute la région atypique en ce sens, parler à un plus large éventail de terroir et à un public plus large étendue et la profondeur un peu comme un Côte de Beaune, terreuse de terre grave posés sur le dessus une cerise noyau. attention maintenant et pour cinq ans et est nécessaire parce que le goûter est actuellement confondre, le temps voir plus de complexité, le développement et l’émotion émergents. Elle sera ensuite solliciter un cri de “bébé, bébé doux, tu es ma drogue. Venez et laissez-moi goûter vos trucs.”  Testé Octobre 2013 et Mars 2014

Fielding Estate Pinot Noir Jackrabbit Flats Vineyard 2010, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore (winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Though a recent phenomenon, a Bench area winemaker’s keen interest in the Lincoln Lakeshore as a unicorn Pinot growing locale has come out of the forest’s shadows. From dual-vineyard plots and specific barrel choosing, the JRF expressly microwaves its agminate gathering, that is, 14 months on lees in barrel, a warm vintage and virtually unfiltered ferment. Completely free of its closet, there is coffee, toffee and strong tea overtop rufescent fruit close to its earthly roots. An austere, tough and gritty Pinot Noir, from the Burgundy side of the pond, echoing the presenter’s choice of words. “It’s fascinating but nothing to laugh about.”  89  Tasted March 2014  @RichieWine

Bien que d’un phénomène récent, le vif intérêt d’un vigneron de la zone du Banc de la Lincoln Lakeshore comme un Pinot locale croissante licorne est sorti de l’ombre de la forêt. Des parcelles à double vignoble et choix de canon spécifique, la JRF tout micro-ondes expressément sa collecte de agminate, soit 14 mois sur lies en barriques, un millésime chaud et ferment pratiquement non filtré. Complètement libre de son placard, il ya du café, caramel et thé fort overtop Rufescent fruit proche de ses racines terrestres. Un austère, dur et graveleux Pinot Noir, du côté de l’étang de Bourgogne, en écho le choix du présentateur de mots. «C’est fascinant, mais pas de quoi rire.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

The Foreign Affair Pinot Noir 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $43.95, WineAlign)

An ambitious and in retrospect streetwise project now in the golden age of its life. From fruit grown both on the estate’s Crispino Vineyard and at the Vineland Research Centre. Then winemaker Ilya Senchuk dried 40% of the grapes which subsequently spent 15 months in French and Hungarian oak. The modest 13.1 per cent alcohol has realized a resolved, gentle and effortless balance of figgy/raisin-driven fruit and clear spirit. The beaver is not so different from a Tawny meets Reserve Port, Pinot-style. Appassimento, you’ve been Pinot’d.  ‘Ciao’ for hello and goodbye because now is the time to drink.  88  Tasted March 2014  @wineaffair

Un projet ambitieux et débrouillard, rétrospectivement, maintenant dans l’âge d’or de sa vie. De fruits cultivés à la fois sur Crispino Vignoble de la succession et au Centre de recherche de Vineland. Puis vigneron Ilya Senchuk séché 40% des raisins qui a ensuite passé 15 mois en fûts de chêne français et hongrois. Le modeste alcool 13.1 pour cent a réalisé une résolu, équilibre doux et sans effort de figgy / fruités raisins secs et l’esprit clair. Le castor n’est pas si différent d’un Tawny Port répond Réserve Pinot style. Appassimento, vous avez été Pinot’d. «Ciao» pour bonjour et au revoir parce que c’est maintenant le temps de boire.  Dégusté Mars 2014

FLIGHT #4 – RED ROAD TEST – ARE WE ON THE RIGHT TRACK?

From left: Konzelmann Estate Winery Heritage Reserve 2012, Hillebrand Trius Red 2011, Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010, Trius Grand Red 2010, Stratus Red 2007, Creekside Estates Reserve Meritage 2004, and Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2002

From left: Konzelmann Estate Winery Heritage Reserve 2012, Hillebrand Trius Red 2011, Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010, Trius Grand Red 2010, Stratus Red 2007, Creekside Estates Reserve Meritage 2004, and Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2002

Presented by Trius Winery at Hillebrand winemaker Craig McDonald. McDonald makes one of Niagara’s now flagship red blends, the Trius Grand Red. He brings red blend experience to the table in spades and hearts, particularly from his work at Penfolds in the Barossa Valley, but McDonald is an ardent voice for the relationship between varietal and land. He wants you to decide for yourself, are red wines working and excelling in Niagara? In this flight, Craig’s advice is “I want you to think about the dominant varietal.” Not as easy as you might think.

Konzelmann Estate Winery Heritage Reserve 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula (149179, $30, WineAlign)

A Merlot-based blend with support from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The dominant varietal is the blend’s soft presence, lifting up an otherwise ground espresso, black pepper, currant and verdigris paste in its 14 per cent frame. Yet so young and unsettled, with Franz drive, chalky extract and hard bite. In this Heritage’s “edges and lines your engine’s alive,” so as a first red road-test, it sets a solid course.  88  Tasted March 2014  @KonzelmannWines

Un mélange à base de Merlot avec le soutien de Cabernet Sauvignon et Cabernet Franc. Le cépage dominant est la présence douce du mélange, soulevant un espresso moulu contraire, de poivre noir, de cassis et vert de gris coller dans son cadre de 14 pour cent. Pourtant, si jeune et instable, avec Franz entraînement, extrait calcaire et morsure dur. Dans ce patrimoine “des bords et des lignes en vie, de votre moteur” de manière un premier rouge route-test, il établit un plan solide.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Hillebrand Trius Red 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula  (303800, $22.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES ESSENTIAL

Most of the 47 per cent Merlot, 40 Cabernet Franc and 13 Cabernet Sauvignon fruit was sourced from the Clark and Carlton Vineyards in Four Mile Creek. From the outset age is the focus point. Is this already showing wear and tear or is the sinewy, cassis, toffee, sweet balsamic and emulous acidity congregation preparing a long road ahead for this Niagara exhibit? Crisis? What crisis? It’s just a normal day and this Meritage will say, “maybe I’ll find my way.”  87  Tasted March 2014  @TriusWines

La plupart des 47 pour cent Merlot, Cabernet Franc 40 et 13 Cabernet Sauvignon fruits provenait de les Clark et Carlton Vignobles à Four Mile Creek. Dès l’âge de départ est le point de mise au point. Est-ce montre déjà l’usure ou est le nerveux, de cassis, de caramel, balsamique doux et jaloux acidité congrégation prépare un long chemin à parcourir pour cette exposition Niagara? Crise? Quelle crise? C’est juste une journée normale et ce Meritage dira, «peut-être que je vais trouver mon chemin.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $35.20, WineAlign)

Does anybody really know what wine this is? Does anybody really care? The experts do, as do I. Chosen for back-to-back Expert’s Tastings by a panel of Niagara’s finest palates? AYFKM? What does that say? Today Richie Robert’s CF (42), Merlot (33) and CS (25) master stroke from Lincoln Lakeshore (warm), Beamsville Bench (warmer) and St. David’s (Lowrey Vineyard – warmest) is singing. Charred cherries, animale game and soft funk like top IGT. Raises its own bar. Previous note: “Alights in lithe tendrils before adding coffee, meritage mid-weight. Currants, nasturtium and red fruit compote buoy this cooler Niagara blend that combines fruit from the Lincoln Lakeshore, St. David’s and Beamsville Benches. A good dancer with “the kind of body that would shame Adonis.” Expertly balanced with the spine to age.”  90  Tasted March 2013 and 2014  @FieldingWinery

Quelqu’un sait-il vraiment ce vin ce que c’est? Est-ce que quelqu’un se soucie vraiment? Les experts font, comme moi Chosen pour Dégustations Expertises dos-à-dos par un panel des meilleurs palais du Niagara? AYFKM? Qu’est-ce que cela veut dire? Aujourd’hui Richie FC Robert (42), Merlot (33) et CS (25) coup de maître de Lincoln Lakeshore (chaud), Beamsville (plus chaud) et Saint-David (Lowrey Vineyard – le plus chaud) chante. Cerises carbonisés, jeu animale et funk doux comme haut IGT. Déclenche son propre bar. Note précédente: “. Descend en vrilles agiles avant d’ajouter le café, meritage mi-poids Groseilles, capucine et compote de fruits rouges bouée ce refroidisseur mélange Niagara qui combine les fruits de la Lincoln Lakeshore, Saint-David et Beamsville Bancs Un bon danseur.” L’ type de corps qui honte Adonis. “experte en balance avec la colonne vertébrale de l’âge.”  Dégusté Mars 2013 et 2014

Trius Grand Red 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

Roll out the best barrels from the same Four Mile Creek Clark and Carlton Vineyards. Gravity drip freshly-pressed juice directly into barrel, wait 18 months and voilà, the flagship red from winemaker Craig McDonald. The 45/33/22 Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend radiates of everything under the sun. It’s rich and lush, marked by huge extract and yet it’s also graced by sweet, limber tannins. The middle ground gives faint notes of soy and dill though it can be imagined they will be smothered as the chain lengthens and the flesh becomes more pliable. I’ve one put aside for a visit in 2018.  89  Tasted March 2014

Etaler les meilleurs fûts de les mêmes Four Mile Creek Clark et Carlton Vineyards. goutte à goutte par gravité jus de fruits fraîchement pressés directement dans le cylindre, attendre 18 mois et voilà, le rouge phare de vigneron Craig McDonald. Le 45/33/22 Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon mélange rayonne de tout sous le soleil. Il est riche et luxuriante, marqué par d’énormes extrait et encore il est également honoré par des tanins doux et souple. Le terrain d’entente donne des notes faibles de soja et aneth si on peut imaginer qu’ils seront étouffées comme la chaîne s’allonge et la chair devient plus souple. J’ai un mets de côté pour une visite en 2018.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Stratus Red 2007, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Niagara Peninsula (winery, $44.20, WineAlign)

On a day like today, the 2007 Stratus Red’s long, long sleep (644 days in mostly new French Oak) seems particularly magnified. Today the moody tincture is a cocktail shaker filled with peat, clay, iodine, strawberry compote, sangria and divaricated tannin. No other red blend today is as complex, shows more road rage or tries to speed off the track. Previous note: “Puts a twinkle in Groux’s eye. “Still very enjoyable, agreeable and ageable,” he smiles and I note it’s not candied like it may have once been perceived.  A healthy and high 88 per cent dose of new oak but it’s not the encumbrance you might expect. Still quite tight, eking strawberry and plum, and indubitably a unique amalgamation. Will offer up five more years of pleasure.”  91  Tasted September 2013 and March 2014  @Stratuswines

En un jour comme aujourd’hui, long, long sommeil de 2007 Stratus Rouge (644 jours dans la plupart neufs de chêne français) semble particulièrement agrandie. Aujourd’hui, la teinture de mauvaise humeur est un shaker rempli de tourbe, de l’argile, de l’iode, compote de fraises, sangria et les tannins divaricated. Aucune autre mélange de rouge aujourd’hui est aussi complexe, montre plus de rage au volant ou tente d’accélérer la piste. Note précédente: “. Met une étincelle dans l’oeil de Groux” Toujours très agréable, agréable et gérable “, il sourit et je constate que ce n’est pas confits comme il peut avoir été une fois perçu une saine et haute 88 par dose cent de chêne neuf, mais il est. pas la charge que vous pourriez vous attendre. toujours très serré, eking fraise et de prune, et sans aucun doute une fusion unique. offrira jusqu’à cinq années de plaisir “.  Dégusté Septembre 2013 et Mars 2014

Creekside Estates Reserve Meritage 2004, VQA Niagara Peninsula (sold out, $45, WineAlign)

A straight up self-starter, 55/45 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Left Bank galvanized blend. Craig McDonald noted that he and Rob Power “had no idea what we were doing.” What they had was a four year-old vineyard on the Queenston Road, St. David’s Bench in Four Mile Creek. They made this Bordeaux in a challenging vintage when there might not have been a sound mind around (who was paying them any attention) for guidance or encouragement. Though it has crossed the threshold into resinous mannerisms and elements of an armamentarium, the two mad scientists found a way to take 12 per cent alcohol and real fruit on a 10-year journey to the museum. Shows what potential there has always been and where the distinction of the 2014 Niagara reds will be in 2024.  89  Tasted March 2014  @CreeksideWine

A vous auto-démarreur droite, 55/45 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot, Rive Gauche galvanisé mélange. Craig McDonald admis que lui et Rob Power “n’avait aucune idée de ce que nous faisions.” Ce qu’ils ont trouvé un vignoble de quatre ans sur la route de Queenston, la Cour du Banc de Saint-David à Four Mile Creek. Ils ont fait ce Bordeaux dans un millésime difficile quand il pourrait ne pas avoir été un esprit sain autour (qui les paie aucune attention) pour obtenir des conseils ou des encouragements. Bien qu’il a franchi le seuil de tics et éléments d’un arsenal résineux, les deux savants fous ont trouvé un moyen de prendre 12 pour cent d’alcool et de vrais fruits sur un voyage de 10 ans pour le musée. Montre ce potentiel, il a toujours été et où la distinction de 2014 rouges Niagara sera en 2024.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2002, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula (winery, $34.95)

A Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot split with 12 per cent support from Cabernet Franc. Right up there with other classic H of P blends, in ’98, ’05 and ’07. All three levels, the basic Cab/Merlot, this Reserve and the Speck Family Reserve have stood the test of time, perhaps better than any other Bordeaux blends from the region. You can tell this was an enormous wine at one time. Has gently and slowly evolved into its comfortable skin yet the tannin and grit are still in working order. He’s a crooner this CM2, with a soulful Roy Orbison voice. There aren’t many like him. “That’s why I sigh and sip my lonely wine.” If anything has been learned and if anyone had been paying attention to Ron Giesbrecht while he made his wines, there should be many more to come.  91  Tasted March 2014  @HenryofPelham

FLIGHT #5 – WINE OPTIONS

From left: Stratus Chardonnay 2009, Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011, North Shore Project Syrah 2012, and The Foreign Affair ‘The Conspiracy’ 2012

From left: Stratus Chardonnay 2009, Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011, North Shore Project Syrah 2012, and The Foreign Affair ‘The Conspiracy’ 2012

Presented by Peter Bodnar Rod Sommelier and member of the Brock WSET Team. After four serious and wind-sapping flights, the ice was again broken by the jocose Bodnar Rod when he made comment to the hand coverings of a wine pourer. “Maybe Jamie and I can go out tonight with black latex gloves?” Not a word in response from Mr. Drummond but if I were a betting man I’d say he just might join in that fun.

Stratus Chardonnay 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $55)

Comes off like a white blend, aka Stratus White but this is the outright, unchaste vintage talking. Winemaker J-L Groux crafted three wines with viticulturist Paul Hobbs. Here they split the project 50/50 with Hobbs including wild yeast fermentation and whole bunch pressing and J-L adding short skin contact, controlled yeasts and no whole bunch pressing. From extreme low yields, this one puts on a show after only 10 months in barrel. High on aroma, brazen in texture, ambient in flavour bites. Very Niagara if inexactly Chardonnay.  Tasted March 2014  91  Tasted March 2014

Se détache comme un mélange blanc, aka Stratus Blanc mais c’est la pure et simple, parler cru impudique. Oenologue JL Groux conçu trois vins viticulteur avec Paul Hobbs. Ici, ils partagent le projet 50/50 avec Hobbs y compris sauvage fermentation de la levure et le groupe entier urgent et JL ajoutant un bref contact de la peau, des levures contrôlées et pas toute la bande de pressage. De rendements extrêmement faibles, celui-ci met sur un spectacle après seulement 10 mois en barrique. Haute sur l’arôme, la texture d’airain, ambiant dans les piqûres de saveur. Très Niagara si inexacte Chardonnay.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench (112177, $21.95)

What an arid specimen, tasted blind so distinctly Bench Pinot though the earthy, cranberry and cherry dust had me leaning Short Hills. The Rosewood reveal reminds of “little lonely eyes open and radiant,” berries from acidity victorious Wismer blocks on the Twenty Mile Bench. Previous note: “…and her libidinous solid core of red fruit habituated by a fencing of skin-tight acidity will see prolonging returns. Will run on like a Dave Matthews jam, in wine years scads longer than the temperate Rosewood ’10. An Escarpment’s native flint rocky note whispers “hey little dreamer’s eyes open and staring up at me…wait until I come I’ll take your soul.” Halloween wine indeed.”  89  Tasted September 2013 and March 2014  @RosewoodWine

Quel spécimen aride, dégustés à l’aveugle Banc si distinctement Pinot bien terrestre, la canneberge et de cerise poussière m’avait appuyé Short Hills. Le Rosewood révéler rappelle “petits yeux solitaires ouverts et rayonnants,” baies de l’acidité victorieux blocs Wismer sur le banc Twenty Mile. Note précédente: “… et son noyau solide libidineux de fruits rouges habitués par une clôture de l’acidité de la peau étanche verront rendements prolongeant sera exécuté sur une confiture comme Dave Matthews, dans les années à vin scads plus long que le tempéré Rosewood ’10.. silex natif notes rocheux chuchotements d’un escarpement “hey les yeux du petit rêveur ouverte et les yeux fixés sur moi … attendre jusqu’à ce que je viens je vais prendre votre âme.” vin de Halloween en effet. ”  Dégusté Septembre 2013 et Mars 2014

North Shore Project Syrah 2012, VQA Lake Erie North Shore (sold out, $22)

A project part Will Predhomme (off the charts Sommelier), Hinterland Wine Company (head of the class Sparkling Wine producer) and Colio Estates (top of the heap Lake Erie North Shore red wine maker). More than impressive first outing with a burst of pretty flowers, varietal perspicuity and articulation. As Predomme notes, this is “pure, naked Syrah.” Farmed at Colio, crushed in LENS and fermented at Hinterland. There is a hint (what can best be described as) carbonic maceration in banana sweetness but it does not linger and the lightness of being meets intensity shows adventure and promise.  87  Tasted March 2014  @northshoreproj

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling ‘CSV’ Estate Bottled 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

Was not so easy to return to Riesling 25 wines and three hours later but thanks goodness it was this old (35 years give or take) vines CSV. From the east Bench where limestone rules and rocks, there are apples upon apples in this vintage in waves of luxurious fruit. While Bench Riesling can be so tragically austere, racy and piercing, often in a state of hip “melancholy wine-soaked tenderness,” this CSV ’10 is bathed in luxury and pure pleasure. It’s so much more Germanic in an off-dry way and never forgets its limestone roots. Not necessarily classic Beamsville but not to be missed.  90  Tasted March 2014  @CaveSpring

N’était pas si facile de revenir à 25 Riesling vins et trois heures plus tard, mais Dieu merci, c’était ce vieux (35 ans donner ou prendre) vignes CSV. De la magistrature est, où les règles et les roches calcaires, il ya des pommes sur les pommes dans ce millésime dans les vagues de fruits de luxe. Bien Banc Riesling peut être si tragiquement austère, racé et perçant, souvent dans un état de hanche “mélancolique tendresse de vin trempé,” ce CSV ’10 est baigné dans le luxe et le plaisir pur. C’est tellement plus germanique de manière demi-sec et n’oublie jamais ses racines de calcaire. Pas nécessairement classique Beamsville mais à ne pas manquer.  Dégusté Mars 2014

The Foreign Affair ‘The Conspiracy’ 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula (149237, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Young, huge, rich and oozing in oak soaked spice. Currants, pepper, whole grain, berries and chalk. All in for $20. Previous Note: Quickly reminiscent of its 2011 predecessor but also different, in a basking, vintage-related warmth and reductive currency. This could not have been an easy wine to temper in 2012 considering the ripasso methodology. Just softened plum is painted all over its sheen with the poaching aromas steaming away. Grilled, melting licorice, caramelizing and disapparating before your eyes. Not to mention a French vanilla creamy garagiste waft, like nuts and bolts ice cream. But I will admit the tang, acidity and tenacity increases with each sip and swirl. Such a unique bottling to Ontario. Is there anything else like it not from Lake Erie North Shore?  89  @wineaffair  Tasted February and March 2014

Jeune, grand, riche et suintant en chêne imbibé d’épices. Groseilles, poivre, grains entiers, fruits et craie. All-in pour 20 $. Note précédente:. “Vite rappelle de son prédécesseur 2011, mais également différente, dans un pèlerin, de la chaleur vintage liés et monnaie réductrice Cela n’aurait pas été un vin facile à tempérament en 2012 compte tenu de la méthodologie de ripasso prune juste ramolli est peint partout. son lustre avec les arômes de braconnage vapeur loin. grillé, fondant réglisse, caraméliser et disapparating devant vos yeux. Sans oublier une vanille française crémeuse garagiste bouffée, comme les écrous et boulons de la crème glacée. Mais je vais admettre la saveur, l’acidité et la ténacité augmente avec chaque gorgée et remous. telle une bouteille unique à l’Ontario. Y at-il quelque chose de semblable pas du lac Érié Côte-Nord? ”  Dégusté Février et Mars 2014

Good to go!

Free my Canadian grapes and other love songs

People are not just talking about wine law, they’re joining the band.
PHOTO: JARP/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

The discussion is no longer reserved for wine geeks and industry professionals. People are not just talking about wine law, they’re joining the band. The waves of interest may oscillate in the chatter of the public sector and the media, but the time gaps between are narrowing. Talk is no longer cheap. Canadians are speaking up. Restaurant owners are crying out. Farmers are the lead vocalists. Politicians are listening. The cause and the demand is agreed upon. The song remains the same. Free my grapes.

To the uninitiated, the ignorant and the critic, the love-in happening for Canadian wine right now seems slightly counter-culture. The songs may sound a bit Kumbaya-ish or like covers of Lennon and Harrison chants. Make no mistake about it, this is about the business of selling wine and Canadian wineries want a fair deal.

Grape growers and vintners in Canada have a really good thing going save for one small obstacle. Most provinces won’t allow wine lovers to have out of province wine shipped to them. Ontario is not only the largest producer and consumer of wine in Canada, their government is also the most powerful roadblock to free grapes. Will this ever change? I’ve touched on the subject before.

Related – Wine begins to flow across Canadian provinces and Free grapes of colour

The short answer is yes, if the current level of lobbying is any indication. Last night’s Ontario and B.C. Wine chats, the weekly Twitter/Internet discussion boards created and mediated by Shawn McCormick (Ont.) and Sandra Oldfield (B.C.) took the discourse to an entirely new level. There were many new voices on board. The debates centred on Bill 98, the movement of Free My Grapes and liquor review policy, from one government to the next. Bill 98 is a Private Members (MPP Rob Milligan) Bill that could this make it legal for Ontarians to order and have shipped out of province wines. The opposition members bill has PC support and the promising potential for the NDP to follow suit. Bill 98 entitled “An Act Respecting the Importation of Wine, Beer and Spirits from other Provinces” amends the Liquor Control Act to add a provision that permits individuals of legal age to import wine into Ontario from another province as long as it is for personal consumption only.” The bill has passed second reading, following on the heels of MP Dan Albas’ gains in British Columbia.

Last month Sandra Oldfield posted this essential list on her blog. Top 10 reasons to free my grapes. From a local perspective, allowing grapes to flow across the country increases support for farmers, promotes a Canadian wine culture and increases local tourism. Looking at it globally, changing liquor laws and knocking down pre-prohibition provincial walls would drag Canada out of the laughing-stock category in the world of wine-producing countries. There’s the rub. Critics agree that the deregulation of provincial monopolies and the addition of private liquor stores will not cause tax loss suffering. Oldfield goes so far as to suggest the idea of a flat tax should be investigated. She’s not wrong.

What is the truth of the matter? Does the Ontario government lack the courage to effect change over the LCBO? Is tax collection and the billions of dollars annually endowed from the LCBO to the Ontario government coffers the real issue? Are inflated, algorithmic wine and spirits mark-ups at the heart of the matter?

Regardless of the answer, ears are burning, e-mail is buzzing, letters to MPP’s are increasing and petitions are being signed. Kathleen Wynne is at the centre of the storm and her party can no longer avoid the rising tide of change. It’s simply time to get this done and move on to the matter of making and selling great wine. It’s time to focus on terroir, on soil, on somewhereness.

Just yesterday Ontario wine folks tasted through single vineyard blocks of Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir and celebrated the 25th anniversary of winemaking at Henry of Pelham. Why must Canadians continue to waste their time pleading for Canada’s provincial governments to free the grapes?

So, while everyone waits for the inevitable here at home, wine remains a global concern. The greatest redeeming quality of the all-powerful LCBO is in the VINTAGES releases. The coming weekend features some other love songs, six terrific buys highlighted here. There is one lonely, singular offer from British Columbia, the terrific Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2011. Try it and spread the word. Free my grapes.

From left: Fielding Estate Winery Riesling 2012, Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2011, Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010, Caves Saint Desirat Saint Joseph 2010, Journey’s End Shiraz 2007, and Yabby Lake Vineyard Mornington Peninsula SV Pinot Noir 2010

Fielding Estate Winery Riesling 2012 (251439, $18.95) as per the warm vintage humidifies in increased tropical soupçon. There is a feeling of creamy pineapple and mangosteen, nearly sherbet like, with an expedient and harmonizing lemon/granite boost.  Frothy too and coconut feathery. Finishes pithy but not overly so. Complex Beamsville Riesling.  89  @FieldingWines  @RichieWine

Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2011 (13150, $19.95) is a carnival of red fruit, sans mask. Raspberry, plum and strawberry, pressed, flattened and rolled.  Blueberry too – it’s a freakin’ berry party. Plum and red licorice sneak in for good measure. That said, why wouldn’t you want your Niagara Peninsula Merlot to smell like this? Very approachable, friendly, with tart acidity to wrap it up in a winning package.  Do not look for anything serious here.  88  @featherstonewne

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010 (395855, $24.95) is dug in deep, in pedigree, track record and potential. Mysterious, haunting, cave dwelling fruit. Burrows even deeper, with obvious espresso timber assistance. Balanced, structured and long. A classic H of P CM in the making, throwing muses like the ’98, that will show well to 2022. It’s true, it told me. “It tastes like water, but I’m drunk.”  90  @HenryofPelham

Caves Saint Desirat Saint Joseph 2010 (342980, $23.95) in her elegance and grace from the Northern Rhône is the Syrah to quench even the most desperate anadispic thirst. So lithe, so pretty strawberry, so effortless, so drinkable, so food-friendly. Nothing dramatic or overly exceptional here save for a singer-songwriter, Adamsian, heartfelt angst, but this Syrah is crushed with old school desire without being rustic or misunderstood. “With no secrets, no obsession.” Metal felt but not metallic. Just sit back and enjoy.  90

Journey’s End Shiraz 2007 (337642, $19.95) initiates serious sanguine Stellenbosch intimacy with dusty black cherry and black pepper. Hard to break, like the Northern Rhône, or even Syrah-heavy Châteauneuf-du-Pape but swirl and she will open up. Meaty, gamey, anise, metal-mineral fruit. Hedonistic and certainly clothed in heavy coat but there is an underlying velvet dignity here, though it has not yet shed its bacon baby fat. I would follow this highly complex and intriguing South African for five to 10 years. Already a few years in and not nearly at its peak.  Has ancient experience in its blood.  92  @JourneysEndWine

Yabby Lake Vineyard Mornington Peninsula SV Pinot Noir 2010 (262402, $49.95) is imbued with alluring candied morning glory and ginger aromas. Tight, upright and above sweet suspicion. A front-runner for the genre, faintly painted in dawn pastels and flavoured by a puncheon of strawberry and rhubarb. “Tomorrow never knows what it doesn’t know too soon.” Statis Pinot Noir that is the oasis from the peninsula.  93  @YabbyLake

Good to go!

Ontario wines shine on

Shine {ON} Ontario Wine Map PHOTO: LCBO

as seen on canada.com

After spending the last two days tasting through 150 plus wines as a deputy judge for WineAlign’s World Wine Awards of Canada 2013, a reprieve is in order. Today I shift gears, shut off the global wine valve, return home and focus local.

Fresh on the heels of the National Wine Awards of Canada 2013 results, the #WWAC13 threw a gauntlet of grapes my way; international red blends under $15, up to $25 and up to $50. Same for an amphitheater of white blends. According to fellow panelist David Lawrason, “there was no white grape variety not on this page.” We also tasted, took notes, scored and passed judgement on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Shiraz/Syrah and Riesling.

A year ago less two weeks this supplicating statement, Ontario wine. Can you feel the love? was posed. This reflexive, rhetorical question was quickly responded to with an emphatic, yes. A year on, I continue to talk with myself, with increasing focus on the wines of Ontario’s three most prominent producing regions, The Niagara PeninsulaPrince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore. Self, I preach, Ontario wines continue to shine on. The $64K question is why?

People. Passion. Community. Quality. Climate. Spend a little time in wine country and the first four points explain themselves. Then there is the weather. Mother nature has hurled everything at Ontario’s vines this growing season. Spring frosts, unseasonable cool and wet weather for most of Spring and Summer, tempests, wind damage, torrential rain and flooding. Then an early September spike of intense, humid heat. This will be followed by a twenty-five degree dip in temperature at the end of this week. Despite the mercurial, tsunami fluctuations, Ontario winemakers will make terrific whites and reds in 2013. This is because of the industry’s maturity. Global climate craziness no longer holds a candle to the ability, knowledge, innate understanding and confidence found in Ontario’s wine houses. Going forward, lesser and greater are the terms to consider. Bad vintages are a thing of the past.

For the next 30 days, Ontario’s grape growers and wineries will be receiving some tender, loving, marketing care. The LCBO has rolled out their Shine ON program, an eat and drink local, in-store promotion that runs from September 15 through October 12. A dozen food trucks, representing a wide range of food styles, will be visiting an LCBO location for a special outdoor wine and food sampling. The September 14th, 2013 VINTAGES release features 38 pages of print and photos in discussion with sommeliers, restaurateurs, chefs and international wine critics.

But wait, there’s more. Wine Country Ontario, always the most devout and righteous of Ontario’s wine promoters, is encouraging an experiential twitter colloquy:

Spotlight Toronto champions the campaign in a big way, by way of their extensive 30 Days of Ontario Wine coverage. Wine Country Ontario and VINTAGES will bring the fall celebration to a vinous crescendo when Taste Ontario comes to Ottawa and Toronto, October 7th and 10th. These events mark the largest assembly for sampling Ontario’s wines in one go around.

I have tasted more Ontario wines in the past year than I had combined in all my years previous. Here are six exemplary choices slated for release this coming weekend.

Clockwise from left: The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2011, Fielding Estate Pinot Gris 2012, Daniel Lenko Gewurztraminer 2009, Lighthall Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2011, and Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2007

The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2011 (149237, $19.95) from ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’, (but I like wine), “kissed, re-passed over and threatening to push boundaries as if it were singing “if I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on stage.” This Ilya Senchuk beauty may only be ripasso but I like it. Eases my pain and my brain. Excellent verve and honed of a rock star’s capacity to be loved, with tart, red and black fruit in waves, tar and charcoal. Svelte balance in fruit, alcohol, sweet and sour. This is THE vintage for this wine. Ten plus years lay ahead for a long affair and it will be rewarded with praise in future tastings.”  92  @wineaffair

Fielding Estate Pinot Gris 2012 (251108, $21.95) unlike, or as much as any Niagaran, intimates Alsace. Greasy, well, not greasy but jet propelled, viscous and rich in texture.  Seems to indicate a sweet/nut/salt/stone fruit pit conundrum but never crosses into that dangerous zone where any of these notes might cause interference. Really solid Gris and says a lot about the vintage for this grape. “Will shine on, for everyone.”  89  @FieldingWinery

Daniel Lenko Gewurztraminer 2009 (356832, $24.95) offers obvious, distinct and succinct lychee-induced pleasure. Off-dry with an embolden, mineral tang and good acidity. Early picked yet quite ripe and almost “tannic” for Gewurz. A diamond in the aromatic white wine rough, “blown on the steel breeze.” Sings a long, long song.  90  @daniel_lenko

Lighthall Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (278226, $25) from A Wine Pentathlon, “has that crazed look in its eye, as does vintner Glenn Symons when he talks about it, knowing full well this Prince Edward County juice is a bursting and rising, rocket launching supernova. Steely like Chablis, sharp and shimmering in defiance to the heat of the vintage, the LVC is a dartle to the collective consciousness of the County. Startling revelation. It’s all about the rocks.”  91  @lighthallvyard

Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2011 (302083, $29.95) burrows towards, reaches and fleeces limestone with amplified ramifications. This weather whipped Chardonnay is both Bachelder’s kookiest and most severe. That is succeeds in agminate partying of power and pop is a tribute to savvy winemaking. Though the fruit does not currently ride the breakers, the wine’s length oscillates in waves. Will wait for this one and make an appeal. “Won’t you shine, shine on?”  90 @Bachelder_wines

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2007 (315200, $44.95) currently resides on the leesy side of the Blanc tracks. Rich, nervy, stoked by putty, pith and tankhouse grit. In toast mode and a full on attack of chalk and limestone. Not the faint-hearted bubbles of yesteryear. Must always take it’s rightful place in discussion of top sparkling wines from Ontario.  90  From my earlier notes: Lock, Stock and Sparkling Wines, “turns the brioche quotient up several notches and is consistent with last month’s note: “combines the exceptional ’07 growing season’s rich fruit with early harvested acidity and extreme patience to result in one serious Ontario sparkling wine. A frothing tonic of citrus zest, baking apples, soda bread, cut grass and creamy grume. Long and true.”  90  @HenryofPelham

Good to go!

A lesson learned from the averted LCBO strike

PHOTO: PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

as seen on canada.com

Two words. Buy local.

It was like Armaggedon in LCBO stores across the province on Thursday and that’s exactly what the spin masters wanted to see. Everyone waited with bated breath while being told “talks are continuing in hopes of averting the strike, but if no deal is reached then the strike is on as of 12:01 a.m. Friday.” Yikes. What were the poor citizens of Ontario to do?

canada.com’s  said that “Ontario drinkers are having a bit of a freak out.” Really, Ontarians were losing their minds? Did they not already know that alternative, high quality and affordable options are right in our backyard?

The question is, why give the monopoly a “bump in sales” for “precious, soon to be (maybe) unavailable liquor.” Why fall for this (conspiracy theory alert) marketing juggernaut? Ontario is literally armed by a firmament of booze soldiers stationed at every visible post and outpost. You just have to know where to look.

Related – LCBO strike looms as drinkers stock up

Guess what. The strike was averted. Quelle surprise!

According to VQA Ontario, there are over 140 licensed wineries including grape and fruit wineries. Most people who live in this province are within an hour or two’s drive to Niagara, Prince Edward County or Lake Erie North Shore appellations.  With the exception of the May two-four weekend statutory holiday on Monday, May 20th, every winery will be open for business. Visit one. While you’re at it, check out a micro-brewery or micro-distiller. The Ontario Craft Brewers list 29 breweries on their site. At least one is likely very close to where you live. Still Waters Distillery and Dillon’s in Concord and Beamsville respectively are close enough to several million Ontarians. Check them out. #MeetTheMakers

Here are some tweets to get you thinking:

Here are three local wines, available for purchase at the winery or delivery (by the case) to see you through a fake LCBO strike.

From left: Château des Charmes Cabernet/Merlot 2010, Rosehall Run Pinot Gris Cuvée County 2011, and Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2010

Château des Charmes Cabernet/Merlot 2010 ($19.95, winery) composed of two Cabs (Sauvignon and Franc) and one Merlot is both curvy and linear, Gehry-ish in structure, like the Art Gallery of Ontario. So juicy, so stupidly affordable and clearly designed for dinner; small plates, stove-top one stop, oven-roasted, big barbecue. It don’t matter to this Bordeaux-blend. Saturday? Next Wednesday instead? Any night of the week.  89  @MBosc

Rosehall Run Pinot Gris Cuvée County 2011 ($19.95, winery) combines fruit from their Estate Vineyard and the neighbouring Fieldstone Vineyard. Dan Sullivan’s PG is as glycerin-textured as any in the County. It’s mildly piquant, hugely pear, wearing big fruit flavours on its sleeve and even a touch of cheese. Calling it characterful.  90  @Rosehall_Run

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2010 ($24.95, winery) from the most easterly of the Niagara Escarpment appellations called the Short Hills Bench, is a bit of a west side story. The two Cabs here are the Romeo (Tony) while the Merlot is somewhat of a Juliet (Maria). Their love story goes from “womb to tomb, birth to earth,” from plum to prune, vintage warmth to cool earthy flavour. This one tingles in the nose and also a dances on the buds in a twirling, dream-like state. Bright berries give way to classic Bordeaux-like aromas of tobacco, tea and licorice.  91  @HenryofPelham

Good to go!

Time to buy these great wines

PHOTO: DRAMARGAR/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Smaller investments lead to bigger fortunes. This is the credo that works for me when it comes to wine. I practice what I preach and taste as many wines as possible, to determine the personality of my palate, to make informed, diagnostic and visceral decisions when it comes to purchasing for my cellar.

Related – More Current Release Wines

Admittedly, I am offered many opportunities to taste wine. They are out there for you too, whether you live in Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia or British Columbia. Wine events are happening almost daily, in event venues, in restaurants, in wine shops and at your local monopoly. Get out there and taste Canada. Put a little money and time into your wine future. Take a course. Taste often and always. Training and immersion is key. Taste!

In the meantime, one of my many jobs is to help with buying strategies. Some recent releases are out there for the taking. I have also discovered a remarkable (soon to arrive in Canada) New Zealand producer, thanks to the generosity of the Speck Family (Henry of Pelham, Ontario) and Family Wine Merchants.  Their Icons of Wine, The Inaugural Family Wine Merchants Portfolio Tasting in Toronto was held on April 15, 2013 at Arcadian Lofts. The Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from the Marlborough winery called Te Pā are a revelation. In anticipation of a spring concert of Prince Edward County wine events and new tastings, here is a terrific Pinot from the man himself, Norman Hardie. All in all, here are five new wines to look for, right now and in the near future.

From left: Santi Vigneti Di Monteforte Soave Classico 2011, Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2009, Norman Hardie Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011, Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir ‘Speck Family Reserve’ 2009, and Te Pā Winery Pinot Gris 2012

The grapes: Garganega and Trebbiano

The history: Produced in the Veneto region of northern Italy and owned by Lamberti S.P.A., an Italian chemical company

The lowdown: Really remarkable Soave at an entry-level price speaks for itself, despite the odd marriage between winery and massive chemical overlord

The food match: Cauliflower Soup with Coconut, Turmeric and Lime

Santi Vigneti Di Monteforte Soave Classico 2011 (316067, $14.95) is spangled of a mineral green and gold like lichen and moss on rocks long dripped on by a spraying waterfall. Fettered elegance, waxy like aged Semillon and positively exclusive of balm, oil, cloy or bitter peat. Smooth, direct, agreeable white.  88 @pmacanada

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Property in Panzano (Greve) in Chianti that dates back hundreds of years, when it was called “Cahago”, which means “enclosed, cultivated field”

The lowdown: Open the dictionary and search “Chianti Classico.” CC defined

The food match: Spaghetti, 2012 harvest Roma tomato, basil sprouts, Parmigiano-Reggiano

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2009 (176776, $19.95, SAQ, 571539, $24.60) whispers come-hither, pour a glass of me. You will not be disappointed. Straddles the Chianti meridian, offering up the best of both worlds; a tough, tannic and gritty stalking wolf and an alluring, silky modern fox. Iron and saltpeter meets dark chocolate filled with raspberry liqueur. Blessed with a piacevole retrogusto. “There’s still time for the midnight wine. Life just as it happens going down the line.”  90  @VillaCafaggio  @VinexxCanada

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Long established Marlborough, New Zealand property with vineyards right by the waters of Cloudy Bay at the Wairau Bar, though they’ve only recently begun to bottle under their own label

The lowdown: If Te Pā can find a way to get their wines into VINTAGES stores, they could be priced as low as $18.95. If that happens I will buy them by the case and hand them out on Halloween as adult treats

The food match: Za’atar Spiced Rabbit Gözleme

Te Pā Winery Pinot Gris 2012 (coming soon, $31.95) from a single vineyard made up of three plots and only the best fruit is chosen for the final blend. Hurtles like a ballistic missile fueled by bombarding and bombastic pear fumes, not to mention pungent capsicum. Was “headed for the overload” when suddenly it spun around by way of a dramatic yet finessed, flinty mineral chord change, like a “D” dropped into a Keith Richards’ open “G”. Gets your rocks off. The Sauvignon Blanc popped my eyeballs straight from their sockets. This Pinot Gris is even finer.  92  @nzwine  @winemarlborough

The Splurges

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Norman Hardie needs little introduction. He is the reason Prince Edward County Pinot will secure a place on that grape’s world stage

The lowdown: The 2011 vintage will go down as a classic for PEC. The tens have mass appeal, the nines turned out to be stellar but it is the elevens that gather the best of both worlds; ripeness and acidity. Stock up

The food match: Capercaillie and coniferous forest from Fäviken

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011 (125310, $35.00) paints the County red in layered and structured brushstrokes. Ripe, bright cherry tonality in super-heightened, mesmeric sensuality. Accented by weeping rock, black earth and that cherry. Would not figure this to be Norm’s most rugged or gregarious and yet it holds more heft than it looks. Currently in a great place and will live longer than any other.  92  @normhardie  @TastetheCounty

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Established in 1988, Henry of Pelham Estate Winery is run by the late Paul Speck Sr.’s three sons, Matthew, Daniel and Paul. H of P amalgamates iconic Niagara pedigree with forward thinking and familial kinship

The lowdown: While there is little doubt that winemaker Ron Giesbrecht’s greatest success is and has been cemented in his Cabernet-Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling, his soft spot has got to be for this Speck Family Reserve Pinot

The food match: Tomato Dijon Tart

Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir ‘Speck Family Reserve’ 2009 (657874, $40) has arrived in its happy place. The escarpment abutting, protected position and sheltered warmth away from the lake makes the Short Hills Bench a valued Pinot site. Crushed red berries, exaggerated florals and less earth/funk than many peers lead to the SFR’s singular sagacity. Fine-grained chalky tannins befitting the vintage will see this linger with pleasure for another five years. Yet another fine example of ’09 Niagara Pinot clarity forged by skilled and experienced hands.  91  @SpeckBros

Good to go!

A long and “wine-ding” tasting road

Wine tasting PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

as seen on canada.com

It was right in my wheelhouse and on so many levels. Thirty-three wines, all but two from the Niagara region, spanning vintages from 2001-2010. Poured blind, each of five flights introduced analogous to pop music culture; Aretha Franklin, Frank Zappa, The Sister Sledge, The Who and Simply Red. It could only be zeitgeist for my virgin Experts Tasting experience at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

It happened at Pond Inlet, a cozy, light-filled space, surrounded by a wine local’s who’s who. Vignerons, proprietors, journalists, sommeliers, marketing gurus and Brock U. luminaries. Seated next to Niagara’s über taster and 2013 VQA Promoters Award winner Rick VanSickle, but also in the ameliorated company of Mr. Wine DiscoveryThe Grape Guy and the Wine Sisters.

CCOVI Experts Tasting 2013 (Photo: Michael Godel/canada.com)

More than 140 samples were submitted by wineries to this year’s tasting panel, assessed blind and chosen for excellence, complexity but also adjunct in relative merit to their peers. The 2013 Experts tasting was akin to a structured wine in itself, seamless in flow thanks to Barbara Tatarnic of Brock University. The mostly in vain attempt at assessing vintage, origin and producer was a humbling and submissive gesture. This Storify board captures the social media buzz around the event.

A panel of four winemakers each gave their own unique in flight preamble perspective, followed by a tutored tasting and a reveal of the flight’s wines. The final coterie was a group test, in teams table by table, led in cheeky and mischievous form by a soon to be head-shaven sommelier.

The VQA Promoters Awards were presented at intervals during the event by wine educator Dr. Linda Bramble. Here were this year’s four recipients:

LCBO: Waterloo’s Charley Ronzio of Store 115.

Hospitality: CN Tower’s James Muir, the proprietor of Toronto’s highest cellar.

Promoter-at-Large: Harald Thiel, Vigneron and Proprietor, Hidden Bench Winery.

Media: Rick VanSickle, Wine Journalist, Wines in Niagara.

The wine tasting was then introduced by April Kilpatrick, Sommelier at Windows by Jamie Kennedy.

From left to right: Pillitteri Estates Winery Merlot Reserve ‘Exclamation’ 2010; Peller Estates Cabernet Franc ‘Signature Series’ 2010; Hidden Bench Vineyard and Winery ‘Terroir Caché’ Meritage 2010; The Foreign Affair Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010; and Stratus Malbec 2010.

Flight #1: R.E.S.P.E.C.T

Presented by Rob Power, Winemaker, Creekside Estate, employing Aretha Franklin’s signature because Miles dissed the grape when he said, “I’m not drinking any fucking Merlot!” This assemblage brought Merlot some respect, difficult as they were to pin down and Power later summed it up best. “Mission accomplished. We’ve messed with all your heads.”

Malivoire Wine Company Merlot ‘Stouck Vineyard’ 2010 ($29.95, winery only) of high-toned raspberry fruit is the Dr. Feelgood track. From mendicant, heavy red clay soil on the Lincoln Lakeshore making for concentrated small berries and dense, richly textured Merlot. Tarry, warming, accented by late baking spice and anise. Merlot is a serious business and “taking care of business is really this man’s gain.”  90-91  @MalivoireWine

Trius Winery at Hillebrand Merlot ‘RHS’ Clark Farm Vineyard 2010 ($40, winery only) is a rock steady, Four-Mile Creek, single vineyard effort full of mulberry fruit and dusty, chalky tannin. Let’s call this Merlot what it is, “a funky and lowdown feeling.”  89-90  @TriusWines

Creekside Estates Winery Merlot Reserve, Queenston Road Vineyard 2006 ($34.95, limited availability) spent 32 months in oak and now bricks its age in weathered, splintering cedar with a note of funky prune.  Illustrates the importance of site to Bordeaux varietals in Niagara. A Merlot to make you think, consider the past, “let your mind go, let yourself be free.”  88-89  @CreeksideWine

Creekside Estates Winery Merlot Reserve 2008  ($34.95, winery only) on the St. David’s Bench is “the smoked meat sandwich” says Power, and “a bit of a funkmeister.” Perhaps the flight’s chain of fools, like a blender looking for a Cabernet or two to join the party. Its slumber was 29 months in barrel. “For five long years I thought you were my man.”  88-89  @CreeksideWine

Twomey Merlot 2007 ($61.95, 14043) is the ringer out of Silver Oak in Napa Valley. Whiffs the most funky fromage but also a woman’s perfume. Racy, roaming, with umami, earth and a sweet/savoury line. Goes both ways, a Do Right Woman, Do Right Man kind of Merlot.  “And as long as we’re together, baby.”  89-90  @Twomey

Pillitteri Estates Winery Merlot Reserve ‘Exclamation’ 2010 ($25, winery only) tends Right Bank to me, certainly not Niagara. Big berry, citrus, bright fruit perfume. Heavy tannin, guns a’ blazing and an obvious strong use of American Oak. This one demands respect. “Oh, sock it to me, sock it to me.”  90-91  @PillitteriWines

Cornerstone Estates Winery Merlot 2010 ($23, winery only) appears to show some age though it’s really just a pup. Displays aggressive high-toned tannin with a patience towards potential. I say a little prayer for this Wismer Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench on the Niagara Peninsula Merlot because if it falls apart, it “would only be heartbreak.”  87-88

Flight #2: The Mothers of Invention

Presented by Emma Garner, Winemaker, Thirty Bench, using Frank Zappa’s band as analogy to denote Cabernet Franc as the matriarch to all Bordeaux varietals. Could have sworn #4 was a ringer but no! There were none in the group.

Stratus Cabernet Franc 2008 ($38, 665034) from fruit picked on December 8th (what???) in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Young at heart, full of smokey, tangy, currant baking aromas. Maternal but blessed with firm, plush tannin. “Some people like cupcakes,” I prefer a muffin man.  89-90  @Stratuswines

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2010 ($18.95, winery only) is a Niagara Peninsula, red pepper jelly and citrus-spiked currant concoction made from Fox and Edwards Vineyards, 100% Bench fruit. Thought it was ’08 but wrong! Coffee and herbal balm make the water turn black and this Franc screams for food. 87-88  @stoneyridgewine

Riverview Cellars Cabernet Franc Reserve ‘Salvatore’s’ 2010 ($49.95, winery only) leans a lighter, elegant Loire style. Built upon clay/loam soils out of Niagara-on-the-Lake, aged in both French and American oak. Cool, cherry fruit, mint, herbaceous and full of personality. A fine girl this Riverview, “she do yer laundry, she change a tire, chop a little wood for de fire.”  89-90  @RiverviewWinery

Pillitteri Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve ‘Exclamation’ 2010 ($35, winery only) from family vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake ventures into voluptuous, black forest, fruitcake territory. A 24-month soak in French oak imparts espresso and leather and it’s as if this CF was raised in Napa or designated IGT. But this is NOTL were talking here. Improbable and believable. Modified Note: Big Leg Emma. “Sock it to me!” Tasted twice.  91  @Pillitteriwines

Peller Estates Cabernet Franc ‘Signature Series’ 2010 ($40.20, winery only) has got the funk in dark and dank waves. Top-tier barrel selection out of Four Mile Creek, this one is tight, tense and ready to jam with “a Stratocaster with a whammy bar” in Joe’s garage. Saw through to 100% Malolactic fermentation after 20 months in barrel. If you are jonesing for Cab Franc, don’t miss this player.  91-92 @PellerVQA

Trius at Hillebrand Cabernet Franc ‘Red Shale’ Clark Vineyard 2010 ($40, winery only) at 25.6 Brix is a huge wine from Four Mile Creek. Black beauty, with lots of chocolatey oak and dark fruit. Chalky, grainy thread indicates time is needed to settle it down. No valley girl, this one, nor shrinking violet. “It’s like so BITCHEN!”  89-90  @TriusWines

Pondview Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2010 ($29.95, winery only) again out of Four Mile Creek has the red pepper, currant jelly notes but it’s less ripe and not nearly as big as some siblings in this flight. May have “no cars no diamond rings,” but it shows passion in a Zappacosta, spandex kind of way.  87-88  @pondviewwinery

CCOVI Tasting

Flight #3: We Are Family

Presented by Ron Giesbrecht, Winemaker, Henry of Pelham Estate Winery, discussing “vinified” incest, i.e. Bordeaux grapes which have essentially married their kin. His dissertation, impossibly deadpan, was a cross between Stuart McLean and Ron MacLean. His take on attending to wines of Bordeaux genealogy? “How do you know which side of the church to sit on when you’re related to so many on both sides?”

Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010 ($34.95, winery only) alights in lithe tendrils before adding coffee, meritage mid-weight. Currants, nasturtium and red fruit compote buoy this cooler Niagara blend that combines fruit from the the Lincoln Lakeshore, St. David’s and Beamsville Benches. A good dancer with “the kind of body that would shame Adonis.” Expertly balanced with the spine to age.  88-89  @FieldingWinery

Malivoire Wine Company Cabernet Merlot ‘Stouck’ ($29.95, winery only) from down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a pitchy rendition with a pronounced roasted espresso note. Seems to me the motherly, Cabernet Franc’s genes have imparted their wisdom into this (63%) Cabernet Sauvignon dominant beauty with big Cassis fruit. Chic, juicy, with a filled in mid-palate and stiff structure. Grab a glass, “leave your cares behind, these are the good times.”  90-91  @MalivoireWine

Stratus Red 2010 ($44, winery only) seemed older but that just might be the 617 days it spent in barrel. Cab Franc dominant with the help of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the late bloomer, Petit Verdot. Got to love somebody so it may as well be this red, because “I won’t let my life pass me by.” The four grapes help to explain Giesbrecht’s “relative merits of relative meritage.”  89-90  @Stratuswines

Hidden Bench Vineyard and Winery ‘Terroir Caché’ Meritage 2010 ($35, winery only) has rich, voluptuous Napa Valley written all over it. Sister Merlot dominant, Beamsville Bench sledge monster. Plumbago, mineral, blackberry and coffee in a wine that will be the ringer in a blind tasting 10 years on. Harald may be saying “this is our family jewel.” Mr. Thiel, you make good wine.  91-92  @HiddenBench

Hidden Bench Vineyard and Winery ‘Terroir Caché’ Meritage 2007 ($45, winery only) emits the varnish of the ’07 Niagara vintage. Soy, meat protein and caramel give way to a sweeter, plum accented palate. This ’07 is Le Freak, with more Cabernet Sauvignon, indicative of what we did not know then. So much to learn from wines like this, “like the days of stopping at the Savoy.”  87-88  @HiddenBench

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2002 ($50, not available) from the Niagara Peninsula shows toffee and concentrated, oxidized fruit. That said, it has aged well and still offers intellectual spirit in dried fruit and potpourri. Great old tune to Dance, Dance, Dance along to. 88-89  @SpeckBros

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2010 ($50, 616433) from the sunnier and warmer sponge that is the Short Hills Bench is built of a learned structure that only a select few Niagara wines can boast. Fresh, juicy fruit and blitzing acidity for a 38/35/29 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc family sledge blend. “I’d like to see you reach your peak” SFR but I’ll have to heed Giesbrecht’s warning of oeno-infanticide and wait five to ten years. Tasted twice over the weekend.  92  @SpeckBros

Flight #4: Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy

Presented by Ilya Senchuk, Winemaker, Foreign Affair Winery, relating (mostly) Cabernet Sauvignon wines to the idiomatic album by The Who. “We want wines with bounciness,” says Senchuk, “with a knife edge balance of weight and complexity.”

Creekside Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 ($34.95, limited availability) shows age, wood finish, plums and berries. I had this pegged as an ’06 (scouts honour). Not a classic Bordeaux vintage in the Queenston Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench but well-structured and really, there is no substitute. “I look pretty young, but I’m just back-dated, yeah.”  88-89  @CreeksideWine

Malivoire Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Stouck’ 2010 ($29.95, winery only) from down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a big, blowy, brawny wine of massive concentration. Designed for my generation, with jammy flavours from clay soils on good slopes. “People try to put us d-down, just because we get around.”  89-90  @MalivoireWine

Southbrook Vineyards Whimsy Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Lot I’ 2010 ($34.95, winery only) from the Niagara Peninsula is a chameleon, ever evolving in the glass, perplexing, fascinating to study. Possessed of dried fruit and decidedly earthy flavours, complexity and balance. Can “go anywhere, for something new,” anyway, anyhow.  89-90  @SouthbrookWine

Thirty Bench Winemakers Cabernet Franc ‘Small Lot’ 2010 ($40, winery only) lopes out in lacquer than lifts towards sweet red pepper, dusty mulberry and cracked black pepper. All the while a current of Beamsville Bench, black currant acidity runs through it. This one’s a seeker, “its got values but I don’t know how or why.” At least not yet. Give it time.  87-88  @ThirtyBench

Stratus Petit Verdot 2010 ($38, winery only) with its bounce is the Happy Jack of the flight. Thick in weight and texture, a steak sandwich in a glass. Remarkable effort for stand alone Petit Verdot in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Has a certain Spanish modernity and is certainly neither “petite” nor “little.” Say what you want about this PV but never “prevent Jack from feeling happy.”  90-91  @Stratuswines

Fielding Estate ‘Option C’ Red 2010 ($34.95, winery only) begins with an off-putting, scorched earth funk and I wonder if it will blow off. Makes me “dizzy in the head and I’m feeling blue” so I can’t explain but it does indeed dissipate. Cabernet Sauvignon leads the way out of the Lowry Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench with 15% each Merlot and Cabernet Franc rounding out this strong, rhythmic and beaty Bordeaux blend.  89-90  @FieldingWinery

The Foreign Affair Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($37.95, winery only) is very pretty, forward and inviting. Juicy fruit from south facing vines on top of the Niagara Escarpment. Made in the Appassimento style, with 25% of the fruit dried then added back to the wine and 23 months spent in barrel. Puts this Cab in a seat on the Magic Bus. Rogue process, tame result. “I want it.”  91-92  @wineaffair

Flight #5: If You Don’t Know Me By Now

Presented by Peter Bodnar Rod, 13th Street Winery, like a comic book villain, leading the crowd into the uncomfortable nooks and crannies of guessing wines blind. This was a thrilling flight, crushing wine libidos and crowning champions of the game. Notes here are a bit more brief.

Stratus Malbec 2010 ($48, winery only) is made with the help of consulting oenologist Paul Hobbs in an “Alta Vista,” high-altitude style. Cool-climate rendition, a window to the future for the grape in Ontario. Hits a blue note, kind of like Philly soul. Unheard of 10 years ago, this one’s saying “just trust in me like I trust in you.”  90-91  @Stratuswines

Southbrook Vineyards Cabernet Franc ‘Watson Vineyard’ 2002 ($30, not available) shows amazing longevity and freshness. Proof of the Peninsula’s magic to state “you will never never never know me.” Simply solid red.  90-91  @SouthbrookWine

Château Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Julien 2001 ($109, 9852) is the first red herring and stupefies in origin and vintage. I actually found it drying and disappointing. Bordeaux? Whatever.  88-89

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Merlot Unfiltered 2002 ($29.95, winery only) was harvested in October on the Niagara Peninsula. Showing the soy sauce, umami and oxidation of its sistren. Yet another anything but simply red wine from H of P to show us “all the things that we’ve been through.”  87-88  @SpeckBros

The Foreign Affair Winery ‘Temptress’ 2010 ($44.95, winery only) is shepherded by Merlot with bits of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot thrown in for good 15.3% abv measure. Sugary, concentrated and full-bodied. Not for the simply red faint of heart. Embrace this big appassimento style  or “what good is a love affair when you can’t see eye to eye.”  90-91  @wineaffair

Good to go!