Just because I started a website called OntarioWineReview.com doesn't mean it's All-Ontario-All-the-Time. When I kick back at night my mood (and sometimes my curiosity) decides my wine of choice. And the title should read, "Uncorked and Un-Screwed Tonight" ... but that just sounds wrong.
Back in April, I went to a French wine tasting for wineries without representation here in Ontario. There I discovered a little known appellation called Plan de Dieu (plan of God), which is part of the Rhone region and, from what I understand, just outside of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The guy explained that the wines coming from this little place were as good or better then the ones in Chateauneuf, but because it was unknown the wines could be had at bargain basement prices - to me it sounded like a sales pitch until I tried the wines ... they were downright delicious. On August 1st, 2009 at your local LCBO (here in Ontario) in the Vintages section - you will find a wine from this little place, that is an absolute bargain (and would be at twice the price). The nose is sweet with herbs and blackberries along with lots of red fruit, cherry and hints of sweet licorice. The palate delivers as well; very smooth with lots of black fruit, some cherry, a touch of chocolate along with a red licorice finish that is backed up by some lovely tannins. All this for the low, low price of $11.95 - trust me in Ontario that's a deal-and-a-half for a wine of this quality. When I was leaving the LCBO, after my purchase of 4 bottles, I saw a sign on a Chilean wine that said "run, don't walk to pick up a case of this (the Chilean wine)" - that wine was $14.95 ... if that is what you are to do with the Chilean wine - then I would suggest sprinting to your local LCBO first thing Saturday morning to grab a case (or more) of this one.
Two guys, three racks of ribs and a bottle of Zinfandel - what better way to kill an evening and shoot the proverbial shit (the discrepancy in racks is because one guy didn't show). I have been holding onto this bottle for a few years now because it was the first vintage for this three region Zin (Amador, Napa and Mendocino) from the Hess Group under this stylized black label ... thankfully I believe I still have another bottle because this one was awesome. This incredibly fruit forward, alcohol dominant Zin was a perfect match with the ribs - lots of sweet fruit and just the right amount of tannins; the 6 years from vintage date seemed to have little affect on the taste or colour of the wine, in fact I'd say it added to the complexity. I mentioned the domineering alcohol because it seems to add a bit of controversy to the wine - the front label said it was 14.5%, while the back label contradicted that with a 15.5% rating. Seeing as we walked away from table a little lightheaded I'd say the back label wins. But the real winner was my belly - good food, good wine and a friend to share it all with ... what could be better?
Sipping on a B.C. wine brings me back to last summer's trip to Canada's west coast, where I spent 12 days visiting 72 wineries in honour of my mother's 70th birthday. Tonight, I stopped by and mom pulled out this La Frenz Gewurzt that we both remember enjoying when we visited the winery. I remember really liking the Chardonnay (my top wine selection from this winery), but mom is a Gewurzt fan so she leans the white and spicy way. The truth here is that the wine has not stood up ... granted we only bought it last summer, but the freshness is gone, the acidity is minimal and the overal impression of the wine has gone from stellar to subterranean. I have never felt Gewurzt to be a very ageable wine, though I know some would argue with me, I find it tastes better fresh, like Sauvignon Blanc, and this wine did nothing to quash that notion. The nose had some floral notes and a little orange marmalade, but what really came through loud and clear was the honey smells. They also materialized on the tongue in a big way ... sure there was some spice, some floral and the remnants of what was once nice acidity; but the dominating flavour was that honey, and the more you drank the more it took over. I remember this wine was once jazzy, snappy and much crisper, time has not been kind to it ... too bad.
Here we are, another Washington state wine. Over the past few nights I have been re-tasting some Ontario favourites that will be appearing soon on the Taste it Again blog. But this evening I decided to take a break from old Ontario to see what the outside world was producing in the olden days. Now truthfully, 6 years isn't really all that old - but considering that most wine purchased is consumed between 24 and 48 hours of said purchase, and I bet you don't know a whole lotta people with 6-year-old wines in their basement (that wasn't home made by Uncle Leo and everybody is afraid to drink). This Hedges wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and titches of both Cabernet Franc (3%) and Syrah (1%) ... the Syrah keeps it out of the realm of a Meritage blend (it's not a traditional Bordeaux grape variety). It's also a blend of three vineyards. When first popped the wine gave off a very green pepper aroma, but that blew off in about 5 minutes ... from there it moved into a very peppery and spicy realm (today's word seems to be "realm"). I decided to decant and wait about half an hour ... Now, there is a little green pepper that remains, but mostly there is a lot of black pepper and spice with bits of black fruit that begin to emerge after about an hour. The wine is quite smooth and thoroughly enjoyable - it also packs a big 14% alcohol wollop and it still has a great reddish-purple colour, with no sign of age at all in the hue. Finished the bottle within two hours - just as it was getting better, or was I just getting more light-headed?
The night started early with a mid-afternoon bottle of Chateau des Charmes 2007 Estate Chardonnay, if you have not tried this wine you owe it to yourself to find some and drink it. As many of you might know, I am not a huge Chardonnay fan - I am part of the ABC club (Anything But Chardonnay), but this 5-star wine will show you what good Chardonnay is about (I should get the Chateau to put some away for my upcoming nuptials cause it'll be even better a year from now, but I'm off topic ...) ... I'll leave it at that for now and let you click through to the review if you want. Right now, I am going to focus on what came next: Rock & Vine Cabernet Sauvignon. In the trditional sense of the word this is a Meritage or Bordeaux blend, having all five of the grapes in it (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot) - but because there is 79% Cab Sauv in mix they can call it by it's single varietal name. This is actually a very simple wine that over-delivers for its price point (I bought it for $11.99 in Michigan). Lots of blackberries, chocolate, herbs and violtes on the nose with the same stuff showing up in the mouth - full on fruit. The wine is incredibly smooth and very tasty and went perfectly with the BBQed beef ribs that were also enjoy this evening.
I am quite impressed with Washington wines and their ageability, just check out the faux-BC Mission Hill Cab Sauv that was actually made with Washington grapes from 1981, it showed pretty good after so many years. This wine is 20 years younger and very impressive in its own right, there is little hint that it's 8-years-old. The nose is blueberry, blackberry, tobacco, black licorice and cinnamon; while the palate shows blackberry, tobacco, a touch of vanilla and hint of tannin, yet quite smooth in the mouth. The beginning shows grit, the mid is smooth and almost sweet with fruit, then comes the dry finish, which is long and forest floor-ish. Very enjoyable and tasty, not sure it has another 20 years in it but 5, yes.
I bought this bottle for a whopping $6.75 (no date of purchase is on file) ... now trust me, if you live in Ontario $6.75 for a bottle of wine is considered cheap - or sorry - inexpensive. Now eight years from vintage date I open this on a wing and a prayer, wondering if I had actually waited too long to drink it. Happily no, but I would never go so far as to tell you this wine was fresh and lively, age showed on both the nose and palate - and even on the rim of the glass with some slight bricking (turning from red to brownish-red). The nose was forest floor like, with wet leaves and some rot, but sweet pleasant rot, not the festering disgusting kind (trust me it's not bad). The flavours are of sweet dried cranberry and dried leaves along with a touch of some herbs and gentle spice, very nice. Not sure I should have waited this long to drink it, but it is pretty tasty and found a place at the table with a lime, maple and garlic chicken.
I have been a fan of Geyser Peak wines for awhile, but rarely have I tried one this old. Now I hear you saying, 6 years isn't that old, but for a drink-now style of wine (which this is) it just might be. When I first pulled the cork I caught the smell of something funky - not good, not bad, just funky. When poured into the glass the wine seemed stale and musty, I thought maybe it was corked, but I know from experience that cork taint does not blow off, it gets worse the more air that gets into the wine, so I waited. About a half hour later the wine seemed to come around, and within an hour it was downright delicious. Juicy blackberry, dry cocoa like tannins and flavours, nothing overpowering here, just nice and pleasant with a medium length black currant finish.
Tonight, it was the 2nd Annual Pine Island Wine Tasting (Pine Island is located on Lake Nipissing, south of North Bay … in what should be South Bay I am told). Invited by my cousins, I lead the 15 friends gathered in a tasting of wines from California (in honour of it being July 4 – and, for added authenticity, we have three Americans in attendance). The wines numbered 8, and they were: a Chardonnay (Wente Morning Fog), Merlot (Sterling), Pinot Noir (Robert Mondavi), Cabernet Sauvignon (Liberty School), a Syrah (Cline) and a Shiraz (R.H. Philips) - a majority spotted the difference - and two Zinfandels (organic vs. regular - the organic [Bonterra] won over everyone’s taste-buds). And despite tasting, and polishing off, the 8 bottles of wine from the honoured country, the real winner of the night was not from our neighbours to the south, it was from Portugal.
Upon his arrival, a gentleman by the name of Roger handed me a bag and said, “this is for opening tonight.” As I peeked into the bag I saw a block of Stilton cheese and his proclaimed ‘last bottle’ of Warre’s 1982 Late Bottled Vintage Port (bottled in 1986). “Damn right it’s to be opened”, I thought to myself. After dinner I was given the honour. I unwrapped two capsules from the neck (one block, one blue) to discover a fuzzy mold laden cork underneath. The corkscrew sunk in effortlessly. When it was finally removed (without any kind of pop at all, more like a whimper) I noticed the cork was soft but mainly intact (a bit had crumbled away near the bottom); the wine had seeped up to the top on two sides - aiding the molding and softening of the seal. When poured the wine was almost the colour of a 10-year-old tawny (maybe a little more on the red side than brown) and had much the same smells: cherries, orange peel and candied almonds. I got sediment in the first glass I poured and there was plenty at the bottom of the bottle, which required careful pouring - especially near the end. The palate was marvelous, dried-candied cherries, hint of orange, and dark cocoa with nutty nuances; the acidity and tannins said another 10 years of age would have been no problem … and yet it had a smoothness and richness through the mouth that was indescribable to someone who was not at the tasting (or to someone who has not tasted something similar). Interest in trying this piece of history was high, especially amongst the men (some things never change: men and port after a get together, all we needed were cigars in the study). My thanks to Roger for this 27-year-old taste treat. Next year’s Pine Island tasting is Italy, and I’m already looking forward to what Roger will pull out of his cellar.
An afternoon up north with family and friends should always start with a little bubbly. I find myself slightly south of North Bay on an island getaway and the soon to happen 2nd Annual Pine Island wine tasting party extravaganza. We arrive a little early to get the full island experience and I figure, as a guest, it is my responsibility to supply the wine (or some of it anyway) – especially if you want to drink what you like. My first selection was served after a light lunch of cold cuts and cold salads. This Riesling Sekt (Sparkling wine from Germany) has been in my possession for a little over a year now, and other than that knowledge I have no idea of its true age. The nose is slightly yeasty with petrol and mac apple nuances. The palate followed suit with a green apple finish a nice hit of acidity and a long petrol-apple follow thru.