January 30, 2008

Cave Spring 2002 Cabernet-Merlot ... Re-Taste

(Re-Tasted January 2008) … I have to hand it to Tom Pennachetti of Cave Spring Cellars – he saw my previous Taste It Again review and was horrified to learn that his award winning wine was corked. He immediately contacted me to let me know that he had located another bottle and would I take a second look … to me that proves our wineries stand behind their products … so I took Tom up on his offer, and here’s what I found the second time around:

First, about the wine – it’s a blend of Franc (50%), Sauv (35%) and Merlot (15%) from the outstanding 2002 vintage. Most well made reds from ’02 would last 5 years with ease, and the very well made ones would go 10+. I feel this one could hold on longer as it falls into the very well made category. The nose is black raspberry with some cedar and herb notes, and as it opens in the glass, other dark fruits come around. The mouth shows more complexity than does the nose, heaping on top of the black raspberries with some currants and vanilla – tannins are definitely present upon opening, but soften over the next hour – smoothing this wine out to a luscious mouthfeel. It’s 2005 Cuvee win for best red was well deserved. There’s plenty of time left here, another 3 years wouldn’t hurt it in the least, but it’s drinking wonderfully now.

January 28, 2008

Jackson-Triggs 2002 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Meritage

(Found – January 2008)

Sure it’s fun to pick on J-T, and here are just a few of the reasons why … they’re big, they sold-out, they make cellared in Ontario wine by the boat-load and their Olympic wine is the biggest marketing gaf ever in the history of Ontario wine – and that’s saying something (the official wine of the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver is non-VQA). Makes you wonder who is steering the ship. But even with all these snafus you have to admit that when they do get it right they really get it right – and when "they VQA" they do it right. Take this Grand Reserve Meritage from 2002 (gold label) … 6 years from vintage date and it’s still a beauty. Colour and nose are still big and black … and that assessment goes right through to the palate. Tons of black fruit: cassis, blackberries, black raspberries with a touch of cedar and a lovely finish that completes the deal. They may not get it right all the time, they may mess it all up in the marketing department, and you might feel let down that they caved to the mighty American conglomerate (Constellation) … but when the marketing machine lets the wineamakers speak – they can make something spectacular from what they grow right here at home. Lost and Found rating: REAL TREASURE.

Willow Springs 2003 Vidal

(Found – January 2008)

The lowly Vidal grape … the only good thing that has come to it is the invention of icewine, right? Not so fast folks. Someone once commented to me that they never see the Vidal grape outside of icewine. Vidal, believe it or not, shows up in quite a few wines, but they are mostly house blends or house wines and are more often than not off dry. I located a couple of bottles of this Willow Springs offering and wondered how it has fared over the past few years. Vidal is rarely if ever oaked so from vine to bottle there is probably a 6-month gap (if that) – so this wine would have been bottled in early 2004 … still that’s four years on. What I found in my glass was surprising – the colour had darkened and the smells were melon, lemon and a bit of sweet tangerine … the palate showed a decent amount of sweetness along with hits of cantaloup flesh and honeydew melon rind. In the mouth it felt rounded and still had a bit of acidity, while the finish lingered on the cheeks with some lemony-zing. Surprised? Maybe a little, though I had tried a 2004 Vidal a few months ago that was holding up pretty well too … good to see the lowly Vidal holding its own – this would be something nice to sip on come the summer. Lost and Found rating: MINOR TREASURE.

January 17, 2008

Thirteenth Street Winery “Reds”

(Re-Tasted December 2007) … Those of you who were lucky enough to pick up this wine (13th Street’s first and only non-VQA wine) grabbed yourself quite a treat. A blend of 50% Cab Sauv and 25% Syrah and Zin … this was a reactionary wine that was made to “get rid” of some juice the boys brought in from California and could not sell. So, instead of letting it sour, they made lemonade (mixed metaphor I know). I bought 7 bottles in the short time it was on the shelf and now I’m down to my last one. Today, the nose is black cherry, plum and milk chocolate while the taste is still as lovely as ever, black cherry and plumy with great red fruit nuances. There is a bit of bite at the end, which is not necessarily tannin derived, I recommend opening and enjoying this one right now or in the next 6 months. What a fabulous experiment this was, though never to be duplicated.

Chateau des Charmes 1999 Estate Cabernet-Merlot

(Re-Tasted August 2007) … The nose has pepper, blueberry, plum and opens with a little forest floor when the bottle was first opened, but this fades after about 30 minutes. There’s still some oak in there along with vanilla, pepper, cedar, blackberry, currants and some tannin kick. Is there much life left in this bottle - time will tell, another two years might be pushing it - but I’m willing to give it a shot. Down she goes again, thank goodness I bought a few extra bottles.

January 9, 2008

Creekside Estate Winery 2002 Cabernet

(Found – August 2007)

2002, being the year that its was, it was hard to make a wine that would not have life after a few years in bottle; but what about 5 years on. The winemaking team at Creekside shows that their current hit streak is no fluke – and started a long time ago, they have been making great wines all along. At first the wine showed leathery-dark fruit on the nose - the leathery then blew off and became cedary-dark fruit. The cedar continued into the mouth with some cassis, blackberries, a touch of vanilla, a little cinnamon and nutmeg also thrown in for good measure. Not bad at all especially for a wine that has been under plastic cork all this time, and I have had little luck with aged plastic. I still seem to have one bottle left, I’ll lay it down and we’ll assess it again in 2 years. Lost + Found rating: TREASURE.

Erie Shore Vineyard 2001 Cabernet Franc-Zweigelt

(Found – January 2008)

I will fully admit that I waited too long with this one … finding it on the shelf in late December I knew it was probably past its prime, but waiting another month to drink it … that I can’t explain. If there is any good news to take away from this bottle is that it was corked, and therefore I never would have gotten the true flavours of the wine even if I tasted it in its prime. Soaking for as long as it did in the faulty cork the flavours and smells were just enhanced … the wine was ripe with wet newspaper and stewed prunes; and the taste was not much better. Looking at the bottle, now with the level of the wine at its shoulders, you could see the glass had become murky and cloudy. The wine itself looked more like a rosee, being almost completely see through. I gave the wine 30 minutes, an hour, then two hours to sit open, just to see if it would develop anything or blow off its stink … it did neither. Too bad, this one had some great potential in its youth and Erie Shore makes some great Franc. Lost + Found Rating: PURE TRASH.

Kacaba Vineyard 2002 Oak-Aged Gamay

(Found – August 2007)

The grape of Beaujolais in oak you say … mais oui! And quite tastee. A nose of cassis, black cherry, mocha and cedar, with tastes that are just as impressive 5 years on. The cedar had integrated well with the fruit in this bottle and did not over-power or dominate, it settled in nicely with the sour cherry, strawberry, raspberry and a sprinkling of Fry’s powered cocoa. I can’t tell you how truly impressed I was with this one - WOW! Lost + Found Rating: REAL TREASURE.

Pillitteri Estates 2003 Late Harvest Vidal

(Found – January 2008)

In August of 2006 I popped the cork on a bottle of this wine and the cork slid out without any resistence (never a good sign) … the wine turned out to be flat in the mouth, but still had quite a prominent and inviting nose. Flash forward a year and a half and I located another bottle of this wine kicking around on my mother’s wine rack (we must have each bought a bottle during a visit to the winery). I had her put it in the fridge and on my next visit (a few days later) we opened it. Now believe it or not kiddies sometimes a wine can be too cold, this will mute the flavours and smells, and that’s exactly what happened here. But the good news is, you can always let it warm up – better that than to throw an ice cube in it (you know who I’m talking to out there). At first it was just apples that wafted up from the glass and the flavours were apples and lilac. 20 minutes later there was pineapple, wildflower honey and honeydew melon grabbing the olfactories … the flavours had also come around producing that wildflower honey and dried apricots sensation on the tongue, all with a sweet limeade finish. Lost + Found Rating: TREASURE.

January 3, 2008

Willow Springs 2002 Cabernet

(Re-Tasted November 2007) … When I originally tried this wine I gave it rave reviews - I loved it, and the fact that it was made at a little known winery just north of Toronto, Stouffville, made it even more impressive. A few years later, well …as they say at NASA “Houston, we have a problem here.” First, we have the plastic cork closure, I have my opinions about these stoppers and they are not good. Many of the wines I've tasted that have aged 4 years or more under this closure have some funky flavors to them. Unfortunately, this one is no different. It has developed medicinal and over-ripe fruit funkyness on the nose - the taste lacks any kind of fruit characteristics whatsoever and instead delivers nothing but wood. This wine was much better young. If you've held it in the hopes of greater rewards, you've waited too long.

Stratus 2002 Wildass Red

(Re-Tasted November 2007) … About 2 years ago I put away some wines in the hopes that they would age gracefully … within that initial case was a bottle of 2002 Stratus Wildass Red, at the time I had decided this was exactly the kind of wine I should test. I poured it into a Spiegelau glass and up came red fruit, lots and lots of red fruit. Smooth and velvety on the tongue, pure cherries – sweet cherries, black cherries, choke cherries, Don Cherry even. If you have some of this wine it’s ready, so ready in fact it hurts to drink it. But I’ll suffer through the rapture. It was nice when I bought it 2+ years ago – it’s even nicer now.

Stoney Ridge 2004 Pinot Noir

(Re-Tasted November 2007) … Two years later, this is still a very good Pinot ... dried cranberries and a touch of cedar on the nose, followed up by cherries and strawberries in the mouth. There's still a hint of tannin and oak in the mouth, but this one’s smooth and enjoyable right from the get go.

Southbrook 2002 Cabernet - Merlot

(Re-Tasted November 2007) ... This wine was a real find a few years back at the LCBO - a really good bargain at $14.95. Today, the wine is going through a transition … the nose has gone heavily woodsy and vegetal (green pepper) – and the taste really follows suit; it's interesting but hardly drinkable at this time. I have another couple of bottles that I'm willing to try at a later date to see if the wine transitions out of this phase or descends further into the abyss.

Cave Spring 2002 Cabernet-Merlot

(Re-Tasted - November 2007) ... A few years back this wine won Best Red at the 2005 Ontario Cuvee Awards. Now, some five years later, it's time to try it again. I was so looking forward to this wine because it showed such promise a few years back. Today, I opened it and poured it into my usual tasting-review glass (an IKEA Svelka red). To my dismay the telltale smells of cork wafted up from the glass even before I put it to my nose ... damp basement. I stirred and swirled in the hopes that maybe it was just my surroundings, but alas my efforts only managed to dissipate it slightly; that stink quickly came back. Just because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to try it. On the fore-palette, it had some black fruit and cherry smoothness, but by mid-palette that was gone, replaced by a dumbed down version of what was once a beautiful wine. Finally, the finish was completely unpalatable - loaded with taint: moldy, wet nasty basement and old newspaper tastes - it was like chewing on cardboard. I wept silently to myself – what a shame.