December 30, 2008

Calamus Estate Winery 2006 Calamus White

(Re-Tasted September 2007) ... Found wine is always interesting; I never would have put this wine aside, but a devote white drinker might happen to lose a bottle or two in their cellar. That is the condition upon which I stumbled upon this bottle. But this is not a Lost & Found wine, it’s a Taste it Again wine, a wine I tasted back in September of 2007. Back then I recommended it as an end of summer selection (and possibly next summer too) - good thing I added the caveat about the acidity holding up, which at this moment it would seem it hasn’t. The nose is all buckwheat and lavender honey with a faint hint of orange flower; the flavour is also honey, the more bitter and sour buckwheat kind with the merest hint of tangerine. It wasn’t bad to drink, just not as good as it was in it’s youth. But then again it was meant to drink in its youth. So if you still have a bottle or two of this I would suggest you drink it now, as in right now, as in go directly to the wine cellar or fridge, take out that bottle, do not pass go, do not collect two-hundred dollars.

December 28, 2008

Cave Spring 2005 Select Late Harvest Cabernet

(Re-Tasted December 2008) ... Age has not diminished the pleasure of this wine one bit, the nose is still lush with strawberries and cherries while the palate is loaded with strawberry flavours - the sweetness is toned down so it does not come off as sickeningly sweet in any way shape or form - just an incredibly easy going sipper that disappears from the glass very quickly. Best of all, there is no sign of age on this wine - the colour is still a beautiful pinky-red and the nose is still very vibrant with those fresh berries and cherries. Don’t be afraid to keep this one for a few more years.

December 25, 2008

Fielding 2005 Reserve Riesling

(Re-Tasted December 2008) ... Another ‘05 Riesling and another opportunity to prove my premature-petrol theory. Fielding’s Reserve Riesling did not disappoint in that regard, there was a big petrol smell to this wine, with very little sign of fruit, especially on the nose, though the petrol did also continue its dominance in the mouth as well. After about 20 minutes some fruit did emerge as an apple juice sweetness became apparent, then there was a bosc pear flavour on the tongue 10 minutes after that … all still soaked in gas. The finish proved exceedingly long with apricot and petrol residue kicking around for an extended stay. To my delight the acidity remained fairly intact and caused me to swallow many times before it cleared the palate. This wine has aged nicely so far, but once again those that do not like their Rieslings with either gas smells or flavours will find themselves disappointed.

December 23, 2008

13th Street Winery 2005 Riesling

(Re-Tasted December 2008) ... 2005 was an interesting year. It’s the year we had the short-crop, it’s the year we had that stupid 99-1 rule imposed on us (for Cellared in Canada wines only), and it was the year that some great grapes grew because of the a great growing season (it was the winter damage that caused the short-crop). It was also a year in which I noticed “pre-mature petrol notes” in the Riesling. Now the smell of petrol / gas /diesel is a normal smell for Riesling to develop as it gets older, but somewhere near the end of 2006 (the year the 2005 Rieslings would have come out) I was already noticing a predominance of gas on my Riesling. Some say it was the hot summer that caused this; whatever it was it an interesting occurrence. Now some 3 years from vintage date it’s interesting to look (and taste) back at these wines to see where they are now. This 13th Street offering is big on the diesel smells, so much in fact that it is practically all you can smell. On the palate the wine still keeps it’s foot on the gas, but here you’ll also find some over-ripe apple and peach notes on the mid palate. Finally, you should love the finish, which maintains great acidity and a lovely lime flavour. This wine has held up quite well, and while it is definitely not over the hill those who don’t like to smell the Autobahn in their Rieslings best get to drinking this one right away.

December 17, 2008

Peninsula Ridge 2002 Merlot

(Re-Tasted December 2008) ... Back in March 2008, I posted a review (in my Lost & Found column) of a wine from the 2002 vintage that I felt should have lasted longer (not mentioning wineries but to see that wine click here). Some Smart Alec decided to leave me some feed back about my poor review: “it's clearly sat around for more that two years! It's an 02, you would have purchased it in 04 sometime, so therefore, 2006 would have been the 2 year mark. Yet, you just opened it now -- in 2008. Surely you are aware that not all reds have a 'whenever you feel like it' shelf life.” While his comments are valid to an extent there are wines from certain vintages that should have a longer cellar/shelf life than others; to him I would like to point out this wine.

People often ask me: Do Ontario wine age well, can I lie them down? In gratuitous and blatant self- promotion I point them in the direction of this column (Taste it Again) and to my Lost & Found rambles … because my goal is to test wines to see if they do age. When I lay this one down I was sure wo
uld stand the test of time.

Two years ago this was the Merlot to beat at the Cuvee Awards (2006). Now some 6 years from vintage date this beauty still retains much of its vitality in the glass and fruit on both the nose and palate. Blackberries, cassis, a touch of cedar and a little anise greet the nose; there’s also some cinnamon and red licorice that emerge as it sits and breathes in the glass (say half-an-hour). The sipping is pure pleasure, it’s smooth with black fruit, vanilla, cinnamon, a bit of tannin is still hanging about, and a beautiful chocolate seam delivers a wonderful finish. This one’s still juicy, with great acidity and enough backbone to last a few more years. I still get asked if Ontario wines age well – and I say you’ve gotta age the right ones and then the answer is a resounding yes.

And to my doubting Thomas above: I held the wine in question because it said “Limited Edition” – and I guess you were right, Limited Edition didn’t mean selected grapes, it meant limited life span.

December 16, 2008

EastDell 2004 Pinot Noir Reserve

(Re-Tasted December 2008) ... It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Taste it Again note and there is no one happier then me to get back to this column … my last “box of fun” was loaded with foreign wines and Southbrook finds, so I’m so glad to be re-tasting a few past favourites.

I remember liking this wine so much back when I first tried it that I quickly scooped up another bottle when I was next at Eastdell and immediately put it into a box for further ageing (that’s the box of fun). But after today’s tasting I’m not sure how kind time has been to this wine. The nose proved to be a little finicky – sure I found the typical Pinot characteristics of cranberry, sour cherry, strawberry (in the form of licorice) and earthiness, but there was also a wet leaf / forest floor aspect and a funny alcohol smell that kept re-surfacing … in a wine that’s only 13% that’s not normal. Looking at the colour it seems to be darker than I remember (and I thought memories were suppose to fade – rim shot) – being more brownish and bricky. The palate seems fine though, with sour cherry, strawberry and earth – yet very uninspiring. I am reminded here about one of the things they say about Pinot Noir: it drinks in waves. It has its ups and downs during its evolutionary period, for 6 months its delicious, 3 months its dumb and stunted, another 4 months and it’s brilliant, and so on. Who knows, in two months time this one might have leapt out of the glass, but today – on December 15, 2009 – it just lay a little flat. On the other hand, we could just blame the plastic cork. If you have a bottle give it a little more time and see if it resuscitates itself.

December 12, 2008

Southbrook Winery 1998 Lailey Vineyard Merlot

Found December 2008

Turns out my old Southbrook wine tasting days aren't over yet. As we learned back in my 92 Riesling review, I have been a long time follower of the Southbrook story - something to do with actually being my local winery (I live in Toronto and it just so happened to be located in Toronto - or at least closer than any other winery). So a weekend excurtion with my buddy Geoff was not out of the question, especially to the winery he had "discovered" with his first wife. He tells the story about going for a drive one Sunday afternoon and coming across this deserted winery where he bumped into the owner (Bill Redelmeier) who took him and his wife through every single one of the wines he had available. Anyone who knows Bill, or has met him, knows that he is one heck of a raconteur, and can talk forever, if you let him. All this did was make Geoff love this winery more and while his wife was not that much of a wine fan, he did have a buddy who was. Enter me, enter trips to the 'Brook. Bill always said that the wines made at Southbrook were meant to age, and I took him up on this - buying and leaving untold numbers of wines from the winery on my shelf. When I started my "box program" I took some of those wines off my rack and put them in a boxes for further aging. And now it is time to open this 1998 Merlot.

I have long been a proponent of ageing Ontario Merlot, I just fine that when they are young they lack finesse, are too green and far to leafy. Now this Merlot isn't a far cry from leafy and green, but it has a smoothness that is very appealing - especially if you realize that it is a decade from its vintage date. At first the nose was all green pepper, with a backing of black fruit and cedar - that was very slight. In the mouth the green pepper continued, yet was more subtle, with black pepper and dried black cherry with a wood tannin finish. I decided to decant and see what happened. Sacre-Bleu we have quite the wine here. The green pepper blows off from the nose; sure it is still there, but now you can pick up more of the black pepper, black fruit and subtler, almost sweet, cedar notes. The decanting also smoothed out the palate, the wood has calmed down and the pepperyness comes through. I am quite happy to drink this wine - and if you have any bottles, you should too. Lost & Found rating: Treasure.

December 11, 2008

Inniskillin 1999 Rielsing Icewine

Found December 2008

This wine wasn't really lost, nor did I "just find" it - I had been saving it for a special occasion - and I thought there was none more special than a birthday, my own. So this past December 8th I finally took it from its carefully selected resting place and put it into the fridge to chill. After dinner I carefully opened the bottle and poured. The wine had that viscous quality that icewine has, and was the colour of rust. I could buy into that, afterall it was 9 years old. But that's were any semblance to icewine ended.

I had gathered around me for this auspicious occasion my mother and girlfriend Erica, both are huge fans of Riesling (Erica the table wine-kind and mom the icewine-kind). We each stuck our respective noses into our glasses and came up with descriptors like old apples, vinegar and alcoholic prunes ... this did not bode well. With a bit of daring, and because it was my birthday we all felt we must take at least of sip of this funny smelling withches' brew, and yes the nose did not lie, the taste was of "rotting fruit" (those were the best words used). My two fellow revellers put down their glasses and said "sorry" (as if it were their fault) "we just can't drink this." I, on the other hand, took a few extra sips and snorts in the hopes there was a redeeming quality to this wine. The only thing I may have found was the reminiscence of some caramel that was once part of this wine's flavour profile ... I also think, maybe, possibly, I found a bit of corkiness; but it is so hard to tell subtle corkiness with icewine, the sweetness usually drowns it out. Lost & Found rating: Trash.

November 23, 2008

Southbrook Winery 1992 Riesling Dry

Found November 2008

When wine first started to come into my life on a regular basis, and reading about it became part of a normal daily, or weekly, occurrence, I read two things: reds aged, whites didn’t – but with every "rule" there's an exception: Riesling was that exception. I had heard/read that Riesling can/could age fifty years or more. Wow, 50 years – a white wine. It has to do with a combination of the sugars and the acidity … being the ever curious sort that I am I just had to do an experiment. So off to my local winery I did go – in this case it was a 30-minute drive north to Southbrook Farms in Maple (just north of Toronto) and bought myself a couple of bottles of Riesling and then hid them from myself in a dark corner of my cubboard to test out this 50-year theory. Well I never made it to fifty years, as the writing of this review indicates. I unearthed these bottles doing a closet clean out … the 1992 Dry Riesling, that you are about to hear about, and a 1994 Semi-Dry Riesling … the semi-dry has it’s cork in it, but not for long. As for the ’92 … I can’t believe this wine is 16 years old. Un-fricken-believable.

I started out by chilling it for far too long – afraid to open what might be a dead-wine; when is the proper time to open history? At first the smells were light petrol, citrus, and green apple vibrant ... yes, vibrant (as it warmed peach started to emerge and whiffs of petrol became more prevalent). This was now exciting … what could have been the mistake of a lost bottle might now turn into something amazing. Lips to glass here we go: lemon rind … hints of petrol … good acidity … green apple … dry finish. This 16-year-old Riesling had held up amazingly well. As it warmed more white peach flavours and petrol emerged just as they did on a nose - the finish was short, almost abrupt in the way it ended. What's even more amazing about this wine is that at the time it was produced both winery and winemaker (Derek Barnett – now with Lailey) were in their second year of the being. Stay tuned for the opening of the 1994 Semi-Dry. Lost and Found rating: Unbelievable Treasure.

November 10, 2008

Colio Estate Wines 2002 Barrel Aged Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted November 2008) ... Here we are tasting something with true Ontario flavours and has those tell-tale Ontario smells ... green pepper. This Cabernet Franc comes from the remarkable 2002 vintage, one of three great vintages (so far) in this decade (2002, 2005, 2007). Ontario always has it's challenges but those three vintages had some really great age-worthy wines come out of it. No exception here. I'm not sure how much time this bottle has left, I do have a few more to get through, and one is due to come out of the cellar in September 2009 - but i have no fear that it will hold up till then. For now, upon openning, the nose is loaded with cedar and green pepper notes, while the palate holds onto the cedar and green pepper as flavours but also adds a touch of pepperiness and dried blackberries ... the good news is the wines gets better and more flavourful as it stays open, it drops some of the overpowering green pepper and cedar for spiciness and dried black fruit. All-in-all this bottle is holding up quite well.

November 2, 2008

Southbrook Winery 1997 Triomphe Cabernet / Merlot

Found November 2008

Years ago, when Southbrook was a young winery, and still resided in Maple / Richmond Hill (just north of Toronto), a buddy and I used to hang out there quite a bit. It was actually he and his wife who found the place, and knowing my love for wine started taking me there. I remember quite a few Sunday afternoons sitting in the tasting room talking with Nick or bumping into Derek Barnett, the winemaker, who talked passionately about his "hobby" or even Bill Redelmeier, owner, who could speak for hours on the history of the area. That was many moons ago for me and what seems like a lifetime for other principals of this story. Today, Southbrook finds themselves in the heart of Niagara, with a newfangled winery, an acclaimed winemaker and plenty of press about their new digs ... but they can't escape their past - which in truth is pretty good.

That brings me to this bottle of wine - seems I have a few older vintage Southbrook wines from the days of sitting in the old tasting room; those who manned it said the wines were meant for aging and it seems that I took that to heart. On a quiet evening in November I pulled out one of these elderly bottles with the burgundy label, popped the cork and gave it a try.

I tried a number of things with this wine: straight from the bottle, decanting and big glassware. Upon popping the cork I poured the wine directly into a Bordeaux Spiegelau glass and got dried fruit, wet grass, green pepper and dried cherry on the nose. The palate had wet leaves, and an earthy quality complete with a leatheryness and ... a metallic finish that changes into a Vick's cherry cough drop linger, but that metal is still there. I then decanted and let it sit - the nose improved and became a beautiful spiced dried cherry, but the palate did not seem to change, and over the next 30 minutes the wine completely collapsed, turning smoky and cedary, retaining the greeness and metallic finish. After 11 years this wine had become old and tired. Lost & Found rating: Treasure to find an 11 year old wine - became trash pretty quickly.

October 22, 2008

Flat Rock Cellars 2004 Rusty Shed Chardonnay

(Re-Tasted October 2008) ... Is it possible for something to taste mature? Is that a descriptive term? Can something actual taste mature? Does that really mean anything? More questions than answer are being formed as I sit and sip this wine. This Rusty Shed Chardonnay was one of my favourites to come out of the 2004 vintage, and one of my all-time favourite wines to come out of Flat Rock (granted they are a relatively young winery in the grand scheme of things), but this was one fantastic wine when I tried it some 2 and a half years ago. So fantastic in fact that I decided that I just had to lay down a bottle and see what happens. Now here it is, the day I have been waiting for, and I am racked with questions about this wine. My first sniff and taste screamed out “green” and “mature” at the same time. But how can that be, green means young and mature, well that speaks for itself. Time for more aeration…

There’s definitely a vanilla-caramel note here that I’m just loving (that’s my sweet tooth talking to my nose), there’s also some butterscotch and toffee coming from the glass. Any fruit character I’m smelling is that of old fruit, there’s nothing ripe and fresh here, maybe over-ripe is a better term, a hint of cucumber wafts out of the glass and then there is definitely an caramel apple sensation. Taste still has a bit of a bite in the finish with good acidity and the caramel apple keeps coming back to me, but I’m thinking it’s a Granny Smith caramel coated apple and not a Mac; the colour has definitely gone golden yellow, and the finish is quite persistent. The more I sip the more I’m thinking I still like this wine. As many of you may know I am not a huge Chardonnay fan, but this one hits the mark as something different – and I like different. I definitely like different.

Tawse Winery 2005 Echos Bistro Red

(Re-Tasted October 2008)
... It’s time to go to the LCBO … usually I don’t tell you to buy your VQA wines from the LCBO, but when a great wine is being blown out the door it’s time to take advan
tage. So I bought a few bottles of this one myself and decided to re-taste it, just to make sure. Yes it is too early to do a real re-tasting but this seemed like a good opportunity.

Tawse’s Echos, named after the way it echoes their big gun wine (the way it is made) is actually the declassified barrels from their “Grand Vin” … the level of quality is definitely there, it just didn’t make the cut for some reason – and that has always been fine with me. I was at the Bayview Village LCBO and found about a dozen or so bottles at a considerable savings (by LCBO standards), five dollars off (now $20.00). Cherry and plum – with good spice and herb notes, this wine still has plenty of time that it can age in the bottle so consider this an investment for future enjoyment at a great savings.

September 17, 2008

Harbour Estates Winery 2002 Cabernet

(Re-Tasted September 2008) ... Over the past couple of days I have re-tasted a few Ontario wines and have noticed a mini trend, all the bottles I opened were sealed with a plastic cork. Now, granted, the three wines were only from two different wineries, but I just wanted to point this out and keep note of it somewhere. Some folks swear by, and some swear at, the plastic cork, I am still doing my own taste tests and will reserve judgment until I get a few more aged wines under plastic. This Harbour Estates wine was sealed under the spongy-mac-tac version of plastic (I am pretty sure the industry calls it Nomacorc); I get a little leery when I see these synthetic closures on anything I've aged, but again I reserve all judgment until the wine is tasted, and this one showed pretty well indeed.

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc has really stood the test of time, smoky blackberries and cinnamon greet the nose and remained constant for the duration of my drinking and tasting, over the next 3 hours. The taste is a different story, while still very good the palate picks up smoky, peppery, a touch of spice and a bit of a woodsiness; over the course of those same three hours it smoothed out to the point of being silky and gulpable, and truly would have been if not for the black pepper spiciness making you stop and take notice. Very nice indeed - another 2002 wine that really hits the spot. I'd give this wine another 2 to 3 years, but it delicious now.

September 16, 2008

Creekside 2002 Cabernet-Merlot

(Re-Tasted September 2008) ... After the appalling adventure that was the '03 Weir (see below) I decided to give Creekside a chance to redeem themselves by pulling out this 2006 Cuvee Award winning wine (Best General List Red), and I am so glad I did. This wine has evolved in such a beautiful way and still has some time left. There's enough black fruit in here, in the form of black raspberries, a hint of wood - but nothing overpowering, a touch of Ontario's signature green pepper (roasted), a smokey cinnamon note and a pleasant long finish; and what's more, it's very food friendly - my pasta tasted all the better with this to wash it down. Is this a fantastic wine, no; but it is still a very good wine, that's a great big YES. It's a wine that has reached it's maturity gracefully and is now ready for you to enjoy (and over the next two years). For it's original selling price this wine now seems like a steal, $12.95 ... if you have some of these in your cellar it's time to release them and start drinking them up.

Mike Weir 2003 Cabernet Shiraz

(Re-Tasted September 2008) ... Frank Sinatra put it best, "Ain't that a Kick in the Head", or was that Dean Martin? Sounds more like Dean actually, I don't think you would have lived to see the day Frank got kicked in the head; but I digress from the real issue at hand.

I remember back in 2006 when I tried this wine for the first time, I was enthralled by it, so I bought a number of bottles and told you to do the same, telling you to lie it down for "a few years". Well now I am wearing the egg smack dab in the middle of my face - I opened a bottle last night and was very disappointed, it was all w
ood and cedary, green as hell with nothing but pea pod as the only distinguishable feature (other than wood). The palate was no better: pea pod greenness, wood smoke and a sour/bitter finish - it was like drinking, you guessed it, liquid wood ... nasty.

I could blame the year, 2003 was a wet vintage and not particularly good at that
, the boys from Creekside (winemakers for Weir) made a silk purse from a sows ear with this one ... the problem is that it had no staying power, and you would hope (no pun intended) a wine at that price point ($25.00) could stand up a few more years than the measily two it has not. This was a drink now wine ... it is now a drink not wine. And that kick in the head I refer to ... I have 2 bottles left. ' I'm willing to give it another go tonight, but if you don't hear from me again this review stands. If you like wood, this is your wine, for the rest of us, not so much.

September 12, 2008

Inniskillin 2002 Cabernet Franc Reserve

Found September 2008

I have often wondered if "Holy to Goodness" is a real thing people say, or if it was just my mother making something up so she did not have to say "Holy S**t" in front of us kids. The reason tI bring this up is because I said the latter when I first nosed this wine last night, some six years after vintage date, and wondered what mom would have said.

Before I tell you why I exclaimed what I did, it is important to note how I acquired my 3 bottles of this Reserve. In the spring of 2006 I wondered into the Inniskillin winery, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where staff had just finished putting out a display of the last two cases of 2002 Cabernet Franc Reserve with one of those "Last of ..." signs on them. They were not offering any tasting of the wine, so knowledge of vintage and track record of the winery came into play when I bought my bottles. In hindsight I should have bought one of the last remaining cases (12 bottles) - but funds were tight and there are plenty of others wines to buy. Now back to why the exclaimation.

I should not in any way be surprised by this wine, I have tasted longer aged reds from Inniskillin before, most notably a Franc from the early 80's that fellow wine writer Konrad Ejbich provided. I am happy to report that this wine has that kind of staying power. The colour has just the slightest bit of bricking, but nothing to be concerned with. The nose is sweet and pleasant with sweet dried cherries, butterscotch, oak, tobacco, spices (clove and maybe some ginger), vanilla and a touch of alcohol. (it is 13.5%). As time progressed (say an hour or so) cassis, raisin and blackberry also came out. On the palate there was pepper, vanilla-oak, cinnamon, dusty tannins, some black fruits (berries and currants); and over that same length of time (about an hour) the cinnamon, oak and spice became the most dominant. All exceedingly pleasant and palate friendly. The finish was hard to put a finger on because there was so much happening, but as it lingered on the tongue, and well after the swallow, there was a spiced-candied-orange-peel-with-a-hint-of-vanilla taste. Yummy, even if you don't like orange peel. I have one bottle left so I must chose wisely when to open it - another few years won't hurt it though. And if I were to say anything else, it would be this: a wine like this is the best reason I can give as to why you should visit and shop directly at the winery ... finds like this one.
Lost & Found rating: Real Treasure.

September 2, 2008

Vineland 2004 Select Late Harvest Vidal

(Re-Tasted September 2008) ... If memory serves
correctly this wine is still on the
shelves at Vineland Estates, and for good reason, it's still as delicious and tasty as it was the day it was released ... although it has changed in very subtle ways. The nose has turned from tropical to more regional: apples, peaches and pears (lots of pears here) while still maintaining that beautiful smell of lavender honey. The taste is peachy and bosc pear oriented with a little nutmeg-like spice and a bit of honey and floral flavours. It also lingers in the mouth with that floral-honey-peach and pears (in light syrup) without being cloying or thick. Finally, it has lost a little of that vibrancy I remember it having, but it's still very good; though what it has lost in vibrancy it has gained it complexity. Still drinking well and a big hit after dinner.

August 31, 2008

Lakeview Cellars 2002 Gamay Noir

Found August 2008

If you have any bottles of this wine kicking around, now is the time to drink it., according to many Gamay Noir isn't even suppose to last this long, but this bottle from the excellent 2002 vintage is still quite a lot of fun. It's definitely not the red fruity thing you think of when you think of wine made from the grape of Beaujolais. At this point of its life cycle the nose is a mixture of cherry liqueur and raspberry jam. It's exceedingly smooth in the mouth, almost to the point of having no flavour at all, then as it opens it has little else to say but "I am cherry hear me roar". There are no tannins to speak of and as it sits open to the air it became more like a cherry liqueur on the taste too. About 20 to 30 minutes after opening something funny happened: it developed a chocolatey-Kahlua-brandy component with a bittersweet chocolate finish. Not the most wonderful wine I have had, but it sure wasn't bad considering what it was and how old it was. As much as it lacked what it originally had, I liked what it had turned into, which is why I am going to give it a Lost & Found rating of Treasure.

Vineland 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... I distinctly remember buying this wine for under $20 - the reason: Vineland had run out of the current vintages and needed to have something on the shelf until the next vintage was ready. This was a classic case of right place-right time because the overlap only lasted about 2 weeks and they only allotted the re-released of a scant number of cases - I bought 4 bottles ... and am I ever glad I did.

This wine is still very much alive, and will be for a few more years at least. Initially it had lots of nice dark fruit smells along with cedar and black fruit tastes. Tannins were ripe and firm and the wine was vibrant in the glass, darkly coloured without any signs of bricking along the rim; there was even a great dark chocolate flavour on the finish, with just a thin coat of dustiness on the tongue. As it opened over the next few hours it developed touches of pepper, spice and a very appealing basket of red fruits on the palate. And boy did it ever smooth out. I have another 2 bottles, one of which won't see the light of day for another 2+ years. For those who are impatient, drink now.

August 21, 2008

Coyote’s Run 2004 Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... For the past hour and a half I have been sipping on this Coyote’s Run Cabernet Franc from 2004 and with each sip and each half glass it is getting better.

It started out with a heavy green pepper smell that overwhelmed everything in it’s path, if you tried really hard you could find a little bit of cherry, but the green pepper was just so overpowering. The mouth proved to be a little better with a softer version of that green pepper, some toasted oak and tobacco leaf mixed in. But over the course of the past hour and a half (coming on to two hours now), the green pepper has dissipated from the nose and taste – sure it is still there, but it has lost its over powering nature. Now I am left with a pleasant sipper full of toasty-cherry tobacco smells and flavours, with a dash of green pepper; and it’s wonderfully smooth. Surprise, surprise a little bit of pepperyness showed up at about the 2-hour mark. If I needed any more confirmation about Cabernet Franc being Ontario’s grape – I think I just got it. For those of you with bottle(s) left, I would say this one’s good for the next few years anyway.

Peninsula Ridge 2002 Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... I seem to be on a Cabernet Franc kick, and why not, I am still convinced it is Ontario’s grape to show the world what we can do; and if the last two I have tried are any indication, then man we should really hop on this Franc bandwagon pronto before the Chinese rip off icewine and the world thinks we’re nothing but a one-trick pony. With this very Pen Ridge Cabernet Franc making it’s appearance in Vintages September 13th, I thought it best to pull it out of the Taste it Again program and, yes, taste it again. What I found was amazing.

First, I’ll point out that when I bought this wine back in 2006, I paid a whop
ping $18.95 for it (it will now sell for $25.15 in September) and I picked up two bottles … one for the Taste it Again program and another for cellaring further. All I can say now is, good call. The nose is, at first, tobacco, leafy with a touch of green pepper – as it opens more vanilla, cinnamon and dark fruit come out to play. You will notice quite a bit of sediment on the cork or in the bottle, so I would suggest decanting or pouring slowly so as not to get too much of those “floaties” in your glass. In the mouth, at first again, you’ll notice the greenness and wood tannins, but as it opened there were also hints of dried red fruit and then some darker fruit nuances – this wine seemed to get better the more air that got into it – so after an hour or more it was going down way too easy. After 6 years from vintage date there was still plenty of good tannin structure and a good drying-dusty finish. Very impressive.

As I mentioned, I have another bottle still kicking about … seems only right to give it some more time and see where it goes from here – I guess we’ll find out together in another 2 years or so.

Hillebrand 2002 Trius Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... Monday August 18, 2008 … come home from a hard day of grunt work, been looking forward to opening that bottle of ’02 Trius Cabernet Franc all day … hot dog, the end of the day is here. Remove capsule. Plunge corkscrew into cork and extracted it with a resounding “pop” … smile. Breathe in as I reach for the glass … no way … pour wine into glass … sniff … pour glass of wine down drain … pour more wine … sniff … could it be? … Yes way – touch of taint (from the cork) – tough to tell, but a few more sniffs, swirls and swigs decides it. Not happy. Luckily I have back up on this one within arms reach.

Pull out second bottle, cross fingers. Repeat capsule and cork operation, pop is decidedly less resounding. No funny smell is in the air though. Swirl, better … Sniff, better … Swig, now that’s what I expected. A little woodsy, a little spicy on the nose, with hints of cedar. Palate shows that cedar a place to rest, on a bed of dried black fruits and tobacco leaves. The taste is dry and pleasant … ready for food and drinking on its own. Not too long left, another year or two – but well made and still enjoyable. Glad I bought a few when I did, but now it’s time to drink it up.

August 20, 2008

Fielding Estate 2004 Semi-Dry Riesling

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... This was the wine that put Fielding on the map as a must visit winery. In 2004 they came out of the gate with guns blazing, a real contender. Made by now twice replaced winemaker Andrezj Lipinski (currently with Organized Crime, Foreign Affairs, John Howard and possibly others). This wine showed flair and fun in the same bottle. I remember it sold out quickly, a month after I bought a few bottles I was looking for more, and it was gone. Good thing I lay this one down to see if it was just a flash in the pan wine or something of substance. Good news, this screw-capper was delicious 4 years later, with a great golden colour in the glass. The smell and taste was very Welch’s grape juice on the first few sniffs and sips and as it warmed it developed some complexity: a grassiness soon emerged, along with some very delicate notes of paraffin and crayon wax. But it’s in the mouth is where it really showed its mettle, with a crispness that defied its age and a granny smith tartness that still existed with just a tiny bit of sweetness on the finish. This wine really shows some pluck for such a young wineries first outing. This was the wine that signaled the arrival of a new winery in Niagara, one conscience of it’s quality to price ratio, and they have managed to maintain that reputation … original price of this wine, $12.95. (Also see Taste it Again from February 2008)

Hillebrand 2001 Trius Red

Found August 2008

Some moons ago, when I was deciding what to write about in the field of wine, my brother presented me with a bottle of Hillebrand 2001 Trius Red that he had found at his local liquor store – I think it was a thank you for looking after his dog for a week. I have held on to this lone bottle like gold; but for my mother’s 70th birthday I decided it was time to let loose the cork and see where this wine had gone. 2001 lives in infamy in Ontario as the year of the Ladybug, and so any bottle you open has the potential to be “buggy”. Thankfully I can say this bottle was not. Upon openings smells of dried fruit with some spices and a good whiff of cinnamon greeted the nose. The palate pretty much kept up with the nose: signs of dried fruit, dried leaves, a touch of oakiness with some spices and very little in the way of tannin. The age is showing on this wine but it is still very drinkable. Lost & Found rating: Treasure.

August 11, 2008

Willow Springs Testa 2002 Meritage

Found August 2008

The Testa label is the designation that Willow Springs gives to their Reserve line of wines that are only produced in “good years”. 2002 was one of those years, and I remember liking this wine so much that I put my name on a waiting list for the second bottling.
My original personal note said: “Lots of fruit ... smooth and easy to drink - ready now but could do with a few years of lying down.” I was not far off on this perception.

Now 6 years from Vintage date I was ready to give this wine another try in the hopes that it had aged well … my answer to those with a few bottles (more or less) is yes and no. The n
ose on the wine is dried fruit, pleasant and definitely approachable. The taste is a bit on the oaky side, with black cherry, cinnamon and sweet raisins on the tongue, there is also a pleasant black licorice finish. But after the first hour things change drastically. The wine tired and lost any semblance of wine and had become very woodsy and unappealing, both on the nose and taste. My recommendation is to drink this one up quickly. Please note: mine just lasted that long because I was alone, otherwise it would have been gone within the first hour. Good luck and enjoy. Lost & Found rating: Treasure -.

Harbour Estates 2004 Petit Verdot / Malbec

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... I really remember liking this wine back in March of 2006 (my memory isn’t that good – I looked it up) and when I lay it down I thought it would last a couple of years or more … maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong – but I certainly couldn’t tell with this bottle. The only word I can come up with on this one is nasty, and by that I’m not talking in that young, hip vunacular for “really good”.

At first the nose smelled of caraway seeds, then quickly and with more aeration it turned into old sweat socks, rotten vegetation and soaking wet baseme
nt. Inspecting the cork, I noticed that the wine had crept up about halfway. Further inspection of the cork showed that it was a combination disc/conglomerate (solid cork discs on each end, covering ground up and reconstituted cork pieces glued together). Of course, my professionalism and dedication to my craft forced me into putting the glass to my lips and taking a sip; afterall some of the best wines I’ve tried have had inexplicably funky noses. Uh … no … (oh, where is the sink when you need it) … the nose matched the taste, even worse. Too bad, I had some high hopes for this one.

August 4, 2008

Creekside Winery 2004 Shiraz

Found July 2008

Should a Shiraz last 4 years? Damn straight it should, wood and skins alone will make it alright for that kind of ageing, but it’s the long term ageing potential that a year like 2004 is not going to be known for (that is a general rule to which there are some exceptions). So what about this Shiraz, is it an exception or does it follow the rule? There was definitely a generous use of wood here, because it comes through on both the nose and palate, but so does the black fruit and white pepper; there’s also some nuances of dried fruit, a sure sign of an aged wine – but it’s the white pepper and woodiness that’s keeping this one alive. Right now it’s smooth and enjoyable with a bit of wood tannins joining the white pepper on the finish. This one wasn’t meant for any longevity, it was built for drink now enjoyment, I’d say you’ve got maybe a year or two left. Lost & Found rating: Tolerable +.

Ridegepoint Wines 2002 Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... 2002
is the year of the ageable red, that’s why so many of my Taste it Agains focus on wines from that year. Here’s a bottle from Ridgepoint Cabernet Franc that won best of category at the All Canadian Wine Championships the year it was entered (the sticker on the bottle does not give the award year). Now 6 years from vintage date the smell when you first pop the cork is all cedar, after an hour there are some great dried fruit smells that join in, and you might also get the distinct smell of raisins (yes I know they are a dried fruit – but now I’m getting specific). Let’s move on to how it tastes. From the get go there are a plethora of roasted red and green peppers with a touch of cedar essences – these flavour continues all the way through hour-to-hour, the finish is smooth and supple. Still a very nice wine, drink over the next year or two, if you’ve got any left.

Marynissen 2001 Gamay Noir

(Re-Tasted August 2008) ... Way back w
hen, in a galaxy far, far away Marynissen made a name for themselves making red wine: good, ageable red wines; though I may have been stretching it with this one. Seven years from vintage date I opened this bottle of Gamay Noir with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Gamay is the fruity grape of Beaujolais, and not anybody’s first choice for making a wine of any longevity. But combine a good growing season, with plenty of oak and know-how and you can make a wine of some depth and ageability. Popping the cork on this bottle produced a spray of flying wine diamonds, which had crystallized on the cork over the years. The initial smell and taste was harsh and sour, bitter even. After 45 minutes both the smell and taste had mellowed revealing cedar with cinnamon and dried fruit. An hour later we were back to bitter and sour – the wine had completely died. This one is drinkable, but only during a specific window of opportunity (between 45 minutes and an hour-and-a-half from opening) – otherwise its shot.

May 30, 2008

Marynissen Estate 2002 Cabernet Franc

Found – May 2008

Whoa Nelly, what a wine we have here. The initial pour and sniff was one of oaky-black fruit and the taste showed the same, but there was something else in there that was hiding in and amongst that heavy wood – I was determined to draw it out. That meant getting out the decanter to give it some air. A small Riedel “Merlot” decanter, along with a diffuser and screen (for filtering) were used, and there was plenty of inky tarry black gunk on the filter. But the difference, in both taste and smell, was night and day – now smoother and more approachable, the nose was still oaky and black fruit driven, but now with vanilla and cinnamon sprinkled on top … there is also some black raspberry on both the nose and tongue. Looking at the colour it was still quite dark, showing great extraction, deep and dark right through the middle of the glass and there was still a good red rim with little to no signs of bricking (change of colour from red/purple to red brick-like colour). Taste is smooth and luscious, the black fruit remains, but plumminess, sweet tobacco and black cherry oak were now added to the mix. Even decanted there was still fine grit in the bottom of the glass. Both powerful and wonderful, with each sip I was in awe. This wine just further proves to me that Cabernet Franc is Ontario’s red grape. A beautiful year like 2002 really shows what our wineries can do and how they can make beautiful, age-worthy wines with this variety. This one still has plenty of life left in the bottle – it’s delicious now, give it another few years and I can only imagine how good this’ll be. I seem to have one bottle left – I’m going to lay it down to see what happens. Lost & Found rating: Major Treasure … still hasn’t peaked.

May 28, 2008

Southbrook 2001 Triomphe Cabernet Franc – Watson Vineyard

(Found – May 2008)

Here’s a wine that was started by Derek Barnett and finished by Colin Camp
bell … Derek, now with Lailey, is known for making great Cabernet Franc, so I suspect Colin probably just had to wait the prerequisite 12-18 months, that Triomphe wines traditionally received, before bottling this sucker (though it is still a reflection of the winemaker's taste and intuition). The nose is fresh green pepper and a bit cedary … mouth-wise, right from the bottle, it’s pleasant and smooth with a little tannins and good flavours: soft green pepper, blackberries and cedar. But, when you throw this one into a decanter you’ll watch it bloom: black fruit flavours galour, like cassis, black cherry and tobacco leaps into both the mouth and nose. An excellent wine with still a few years left to go. It’s wines like this that make me wonder (and hope) if Southbrook’s future will be as bright as their past – form my pen to bacchus’ eyes – I’ll drink to that. Lost & Found rating: Treasure.

Southbrook Winery 2002 Triomphus Cabernet-Merlot

(Re-Tasted May 2008) … This wine won what? A little over a year ago (Jan, 23, 2007) this wine
won a taste off between the French and Ontario at Sette Mezzo in Toronto. Today, I doubt it’d get out of the first round. I’m gonna blame this on the inferior corks used in the first bottling (these corks were subsequently replaced with better quality corks after the big win – and one of Anne Sperling’s first smart decisions when she took over the reigns at Southbrook). First bottling is capped with gold wax … replaced corks with red wax. As you can see from the pictures, the original corks have the consistency of sponge (and about as many holes) and will crumble easily, so beware when opening. Currently, the wine in bottle is bitter and off-tasting … not corky … just not right, a wine that tastes well beyond its 6-year age. More vinegary than fruity and little to no tannins to speak of. I remember this wine being big and bold with tons of tannins and fruit to come … lots of promise. For a wine that was designed and made to last ten years or more this wine won’t survive the turn of the decade. Gold topped – drink up now; red top (haven’t tried) but the better cork closure which should give it longevity.

Ridgepoint Wines 2004 Cabernet Merlot

(Re-Tasted May 2008) …
This review is painful to write. I know Mauro, owner of Ridgepoin
t, a very friendly and congenial person. I know Arthur Harder, a very good winemaker who has made plenty of award winning wines here in Ontario. But this 2004 Cabernet-Merlot I don’t know, nor do I want to. I remember liking it very much – which is why I set it down for a few years – but unfortunately, it has not stood the test of time. First, there’s the agglomerate cork (crushed up pieces glued together to form a re-constituted cork) … the wine was halfway up this closure. The smell was wet newspaper and cardboardy with just a hint of the former blackberries that used to be a hallmark of this wine. Taste was no better – a funny burnt-cracker-like taste, a bit gluey, flat and unappealing … sorry boys, this one’s corked and the glue has seeped into the wine. Yuck. Might I suggest better quality corks for future vintages, especially those built to last. I seem to have another bottle of this – I’ll take another look/taste and get back to you about it.

Creekside 2001 Laura’s Blend Red

(Re-Tasted May 2008) … I loved this wine so much at first tasting I bought quite a few bottles (6 to be exact) and I still have 3 left. 2001 was a good year in Ontario, except for our vineyard friends the ladybugs, who got munched up in the grapes and secreted that foul smelling and tasting pyrazine chemical into the wines. Thankfully this wine has none of that. Today, some 7 years from vintage date (and 2½ from original tasting), I popped the cork and tried it again. The nose grabbed me by the hairs and screamed “green pepper”, which was all over this wine – there were also some black currants, but they only peaked through that green pepper curtain. The taste is loaded with cedary notes … heck, forget notes, it was like chewing on a stave; little fruit seems to exist here. And that previously mentioned green pepper – well that appears just prior to swallowing and all over the finish and into the aftertaste, but little shows up in the mouth itself. A little aeration proved to be only slightly helpful in bringing out more flavours and different smells. It’s still drinkable and not unpleasant, but I’m not sure I know where it’s going, or if it’s gone. With so many bottles left, I’ll try it again at the end of the summer and let you know.