March 31, 2008

Southbrook Winery 1999 Triomphe Cabernet Franc - Lailey Vineyard

(Found – March 2008)

Think ba
ck nine years. Having trouble? Let me help you. In 1999 Southbrook Winery resided quite happily at 1061 Major Mackenzie Drive just north of Toronto; they had been a winery for 8 years (at that location) and their winemaker was Derek Barnett (now with Lailey Vineyard). They did not grow any of their own grapes here; they bought their grapes from Niagara Vineyards, in this case Lailey, and made the wine in the former cow barn at the property in Maple. I bought this bottle back when I was a budding eonophile; Southbrook still had that (sound astonished) “a quality winery north of Toronto” cache. The guy behind the counter said, “It’s big and It’ll age a long time.”

That’s enough history, let’s fast forward to now. I found this bottle of ’99 Franc on a rac
k and decided I best drink it now – boy was I wrong, still too early … yes it’s drinking very nicely now but I think another few years would do this wine lots of good. I started by pouring it right out of the bottle; unfiltered bits and pieces fell into my glass. Looking at the wine as it cascaded into the glass, I could see that the colour was still dark, the smells were smoky, woodsy and had a hint of cherry licorice, the taste was all-woodsy and black fruited.

I then decided to filter and decant, what a difference: black licorice, spicy nuances and some green pepper on the nose. The taste was even better: black fruit, a bit of cedar, cinnamon, herbs, a bit of something spicy and hints of charred green pepper fresh off the bbq. The decanting smoothed this one out and made it even better then it originally seemed – and boy is it rich and flavourful … best of all it still has plenty of years left, I’d say 3 years or more. Wonderful. Lost & Found rating: Major Treasure ... and getting better.

March 24, 2008

Magnotta 2002 Toro Nero Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Editon – Non-VQA

(Found – March 2008)

I found this wine in a “two-year-hold” box I had been saving, it’s two years were up and decided to lug it over to mom and dad’s place for Easter … why not, it’s always fun to play “guess what I brought with mom.” In the end, mom called this wine “busy” and I’d agree. The aromas were all over the map: there was a grassiness that accosted the nose, I thought it more green peppery at first, but it developed a bitterness in the smell that lent it more to the grass family of vegetation; that was followed by a mocha note of sorts. Once you got past that, and swirled it around in the glass a little, there was ripe blackberry and eucalyptus … but at rest the wine returned to the original bitter smells. As it remained open longer the smells became coffee bean and then bitter, strong coffee. In the mouth, things got even busier – there was an oaky-minty taste, then smooth, soft vanilla with herbs and spices showed up. Give it a little air in the mouth and there were plums and cloves – then dried leaves lead the way to a juicy yet dusty finish – which as mom put it, “was not unpleasant at all.” Again, as it stayed open longer the coffee from the nose began to poke through on the palate, and within an hour it was fully dominant. Maybe a few years left here, but once opened drink quickly. Lost & Found rating: Tolerable+

Pillitteri Estates Winery 2004 Dolce Riesling

(Found – March 2008)

Hmmm an aged (4-years) sweet Riesling, seems like a nice wine to have found on a sunny Saturday afternoon, too bad it’s –3 out or the back deck would beckon. The cork pops and I’m away to the races with this one. Pretty simple wine actually, the smells are apple juice in nature with a touch of lanolin and talc. In the mouth I find it more difficult place to distinguish flavours. There’s a sweet lemonade taste and a very fine nuance of petrol, when aerated in the mouth, and there is a slight bitterness thru the mid-palate. Now swallow, and wait and wait and wait – wow, good extra long finish – a few minutes pass and I’ve still got the taste of the wine lingering in there … too bad they’re non-descript flavours that’re hard to identify. There’s also just enough acidity hanging around to balance the sweetness out. If you’ve got any of this drink ‘em this summer or maybe next, but I wouldn’t hold it much longer. Lost & Found rating: Tolerable+

March 20, 2008

Mike Weir 2002 Cabernet Merlot

(Re-Tasted March 2008) With all the celebrities coming to Niagara (and other parts of Ontario) to get involved in the wine industry, you would expect quality and diversity to suffer for more consumer friendly (read: bland) wines. Luckily, Mike Weir has bucked that trend from day one and even now remains a consistently good label. Of course, that could be because of the winemaking team behind the brand (Creekside’s). This inaugural Cab-Merlot could have been a quick cash cow for Weir Wines, but instead quality was paramount. Not sure I approve of the plastic cork (as Konrad Edjbich once called this kind: “looks like sponge surrounded by mac-tac”), but it seems to service the wine well. The business end of the cork is black as pitch, while the wine in the glass still shows good dark colouring. The nose still holds quite a bit of dark fruit with a touch of vanilla. In the mouth, it’s even better: blackberries soaked in vanilla and nutmeg, with a smooth silky and luscious creamy dark chocolate finish – and there’s still a bit of tannin left. I would say drink this one now thru 2009 or 10.

Featherstone Estate Winery 2004 Onyx Cabernet Merlot

(Re-Tasted March 2008) … People who read my reviews know that I am a big fan of Featherstone, a winery started back in 1999. As they get older, it makes it easier for me to check their back vintages to see if my initial impressions have held up over the long haul. Onyx is a wine you would have paid about $20 for and “Onyx” is the moniker Featherstone chose to delineate this wine as a reserve – knowing deep in their hearts that the word “reserve” is an overused and meaningless title. I scraped off the capsule covering the cork (never a good sign) to reveal what I had suspected and feared: wine had seeped through, creating a sticky super-glue effect to the plastic capsule … the bottleneck smelled like Balsamic. The cork slid out with barely a whimper and an inspection of the cork revealed wine had indeed crept ¾ of the way up, in fact ¼ was fully red all the way to the top. The nose seemed to have life, the initial pour was red fruit laden and accosted my nose with its pleasant aromas – but it didn’t take long for those smells to change (max. 10 minutes) into smoky and pruny with dried fruit and leaves at its core. On the taste, the dried fruit continued to dominate, the tannins had vacated for parts unknown leaving the wine completely smooth; flavours reminiscent of old jam left in the fridge too long and smoky woodsy nuances … within a few minutes, it was all smoked wood with no remnants of the fruit left behind. The wine has become old, tired and uninteresting before its time – I’m sure the cork leakage had something to do with it. Turns out the wine is tolerable, but not what I was expecting, too bad.

March 5, 2008

Featherstone 2004 Cherry Barrel Cabernet Franc

(Found: February 2008)

On the eve of a Featherstone Limited White Wine victory at Cuvee 2008 – for their 2007 Gewurztraminer – I opened this bottle of Cherry Barrel Franc, another limited edition wine from Featherstone. This is a single barrel production wine (one barrel, 23 cases, 276 bottles). Upon opening I got rhubarb and raspberry; a few minutes in and I was dealing with a red-berry bowl with vanilla flavouring. Tastes were as expected (the nose didn’t lie): cherry, woodsy and tobacco leaf with a touch of vanilla and some interesting crème-brule nuances. 30 minutes later it was smooth as silk and easy swiggin’; everything had settled, flavours of cherry-vanilla-tobacco … the finish was long and loaded with sour cherry while the tannins were present but smooth. Good wine from a so-so year (2004) – I believe this wine has hit it’s ‘sweet-spot’, so drink now to 2009. Lost & Found rating: Treasure.