December 31, 2009

Stonechurch 2006 Dry Riesling

Found December 2009

In my New Year's write up I mentioned three wines that we had that were very good and a number (without names) that were not up to snuff or, most likely, not what most people wanted to drink ... but this one took the cake. I know I said I would protect the names of the innocent but this is not an innocent wine, this was just plain and simple sloppy wine making, a bad marketing decision, or both. This Dry Riesling from Stonechurch was a "pre-release" wine, in fact the label had been handwritten on with a silver Sharpie marker. Over time I had noticed a little sediment in the bottle, odd for a Riesling, when I asked at the winery about it they said that was because it was a pre-release and they may not have filtered it as finely as they normally would. This should have tipped me off that something was wrong with this wine, but I wanted to believe, and I know I liked the wine when I tasted it at the winery. Tonight, I opened it and the cork made a bigger pop than the Champagne I opened later in the evening. The wine, when poured into the glass, fizzed and bubbled more than a can of warm coke and the taste, ick. The wine had re-fermented in the bottle and had transformed into an undrinkable sparkling wine, where once a still wine should have been ... no wonder the next few wines didn't go over well, most were still remembering this Riesling disaster. Turns out I still have a bottle left, this will be good for clearing clogged drains and cleaning the toilet. Lost & Found Rating: Trash

Southbrook Winery 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon - Lailey Vineyard

Found December 2009

New Year's Eve 2009 ... as we move from 2009 to 2010 I decided to open quite a few wines (well actually 3), the others can be found here ... as for the Ontario component of my evening it was this well aged Cabernet Sauvignon from Southbrook. Those who read my entries to this blog know that Southbrook used to be my local winery and I seem to have quite a few bottles of theirs that go back a few years. This wine would have been made from fruit sourced at Lailey Vineyard down in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Southbrook at this time, did not own their own vines. I drank this one after a much younger, more alcoholly, richer fruited Malbec from Argentina, but it still held it's own. The smells were that of an older wine with cranberry, dried raspberries and blackberries with the mildest whiff of green pepper (an Ontario signature smell around this time period). The palate was smooth (though a tad gritty from the unfiltered floaties - but it is this element that has allowed the wine to age so gracefully so no use complaining), there was also a touch of white pepper and a bit of woodsiness to mix with the dried fruit base. Paired well with the New Year's Eve pizza. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure

November 17, 2009

Vignoble Rancourt 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Found November 2009

Lionel Rancourt was one of those guys that made wine fun and made you feel welcome. The first time I happened upon his winery it was after 5 o'clock at night, I was leaving the Shaw festival, having just seen a play with my mother. Today I'm not sure what the play was but I sure remember Rancourt's winery. We were puttering along Hwy. 55 (Niagara Stone Road) and spied his sign, we made the right hand turn and then another to pull down the driveway, all the time wondering if the winery was still open. The door was locked and the sign on the door said they closed at 5. I was getting back into the car when I heard a voice, "wait ... I'm coming." I turned to see a little limping man hobbling down the stairs of a house across the drive. "You came all this way to see my winery," he said as he got closer, "the least I can do is give you a taste of what you came for." And with that we shook hands and he opened the winery door. That evening Lionel took me on a tour of his winery and of his wines - told me of his great plans for the future and his passion for the wine industry. Alas, many of Lionel's dreams never came to pass, he passed away suddenly a couple of Chirstmases ago, but I still remember that visit. Tonight, I was having dinner with mom and dad and found this bottle to Rancourt's 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon in my cellar; I brought it along to bring back the memories of that interesting evening, my mother still says "poor Mr. Rancourt" whenever she passes the winery or sees a bottle of his wine. We opened it to try. Yet again I must say alas when it come to Mr. Rancourt: the nose was pruney with celery and other veggie notes , and when given a little air the woodiness shone through. On the palate there was much of the same with woody and vegetal notes. Gone was the fruit. When decanted all that was left was wood: cedar planks and sawdust. This wine had crested the hill and was in its steady decline, but something tells me it happened within the last year, so this one is just barely trash, but trash none the less. Lost & Found Rating: Trash

November 14, 2009

Henry of Pelham 2005 Reserve Riesling

(Re-Tasted November 2009) ... Back to one of my favourite topics, the 2005 Rieslings and their development. I have quite a few bottles of this wine in my cellar (4 more to be exact) so I had really high hopes for it when I bought it ... and I have to say it is coming along nicely, though at first, I have to admit, I was a little nervous. The initial smell was very gassy, and when I say very gassy I mean it was like standing at the pump having just spilled gas on your pants. And then if you can imagine getting into the car with your pants on wet with car-go-juice then you'll figure out what it was like to smell this wine. It took about 15 minutes for that to dissipate, but once it did there was a very pronounced lime-mineral note that emerged. The petrol came screaming through on the tongue in much the same way as it did on the nose, being extremely domineering in the first few minutes, but then it quieted down and giving way to lime rind, mineral/stony nuances and with only hints of gasoline. By the time an hour had passed the wine was warm but quite drinkable ... maybe I should have opened and let sit out for a bit then put in the fridge, next time, and with four bottles to go there will definitely be a next time.

November 13, 2009

Vineland Estate Winery 2005 Semi-Dry Rielsing

(Re-Tasted November 2009) ... Pop went the cork! And with that another '05 Riesling was opened, I expected to be hit over the head with petrol smells, but this one didn't do that. Sure the aroma of petrol was present, but it was not heavy-handed as it has been in many of the '05 I have tried in the past couple of years; in fact, the most dominant smell was lemon, a very welcome smell in 2005 Rieslings. But this wine really shone in the mouth, here I found a lot of complexity and believe there is still more to come. There was lemon and lemon rind with hints of sweetness across the tongue. There was also some tangerine notes along with petrol hanging out on the finish ... the longer the wine sat open I found some mac apple emerge into mix with the lemon, tangerine and petrol. This wine is still has time to develop and is drinking very nicely right now.

November 9, 2009

Jackson-Triggs 2002 Proprietors' Grand Reserve Merlot

Found November 2009

It seems like it's been awhile since anybody had something nice to say about Jackson-Triggs, what with that Cellared in Canada issue blowing up in their face (not saying it was just them, but they did take the brunt of the blame). So I'm here to tell you is that when J-T puts their mind to it they can make some awesome VQA wines, like this Proprietors' Grand Reserve Merlot from 2002 ... after finding and tasting it Saturday night there's was little doubt in my mind as to why this bottle had a gold label adorning the outside.

Back when it was released this wine was a real beauty, one ripe for laying down and re-discovering in years to come; and why? The combination of a good growing season and plenty of barrel age (18 months in new French oak). So here we are, some 7 years from vintage date, and this wine is still going strong. Upon opening, I noticed the cork was in perfect condition, no seepage up the sides and the tip was as black as pitch. The initial smell was one of smokey green peppers and spice, while the taste was plenty spicy with black pepper on the palate and a hint of dried black currants lurking on the mid-palate ... but for the most part this wine was all smoky, spicy and peppery in the mouth.

Being the impatient sort that I am, I decided it was time to decant, so I pulled out my Vinturi (a great little by-the-glass decanting device perfect for when you're on the road and require the use of a decanter but have none available) and passed the wine through it. The sharp spice was toned down to a more manageable level on the tongue and the smoky aspect came through as extremely pleasant. The green pepper, that once lived on the nose, dissipated quietly into the background, while the acid and black pepper were pleasantly intensified ... now, with the wine more in tune with my palate's needs, it was time to sit and sip away the evening. As I did so, and about an hour later, there seemed to be some blackened fruit that showed up, more as an after thought than a main player - but it was welcomed to the party with open arms (or lips as the case may be).

This wine proves to me that when Jackson-Triggs focuses on 100% Ontario VQA wine there is no controversy, they make fantastic stuff. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure

November 2, 2009

Thirteenth Street 'Reds' Again, Last Bottle

Click here to read the original reviews from
January 2006 - Re-taste January 2008

(Re-Tasted November 2009) ... After all these years I am still in a quandry about this wine, even more so now, especially in light of what is going on in the Ontario industry. Yes, I know, it is a Cellared in Canada wine made from Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and Zinfandel from California. Do I mollify myself by saying this is a one-off from the boys at 13th Street, who make incredible VQA wines - in fact I do, but what a one-off it is. No date adorns the bottle, hence I have no idea how old this wine is, but considering my first review is from January of 2006, then it must be at least 3 years old, but the boys at The Street don't have a "blending license" so it must be either a 2003 or a 2005, adding another 1 - 3 years to the bottle. So now that we have accomplished nothing how does this wine taste? Smells needed some coaxing with an aerator revealing some plum and spice with hints of pepper; the palate was still in the very drinkable range of its lifespan offering up plenty of spice and pepper with an array of black fruits that were just beginning to fade. So if you have some of this wine sitting on a shelf, now is the time to drink it. I have to say, reluctantly, this is a very good wine, it shows what kind of wines can be made in this category and that they are not all some form of cheap plonk.

October 26, 2009

Southbrook Winery 1998 Riesling Icewine

Found October 2009

Tonight a bottle of 11 year old Southbrook Riesling Icewine was opened in my presence, and whenever an interesting bottle is opened in my presence I feel I must report on it. The cork glided out of the bottle with barely a whimper and a quick inspection of the cork showed a caking of tartaric crystals, I assured everyone that this was an okay thing. The smell was of burnt caramel nut clusters while the taste was sweet candied dried fruit with pecans in a caramel toffee sauce ... the aftertaste, following the swallowe, produced a rusty apple on the rather long finish. To put this wine into a context you might be able to understand, the wine was similar in consistency and colour of a Pedro Ximenez based cream sherry (thick and syrupy), and just as dark. An intersting piece of Ontario's, and Southbrook's, history. Lost & Found Rating: Tolerable, but in very small amounts.

October 19, 2009

Calamus Estate Winery 2005 Riesling

(Re-Tasted October 2009) ... If truth be told, it was probably Derek Saunders (owner of Calamus) who got me to think strongly about doing this blog. I had already been putting wines down for aging purposes before this wine found its way into an aging box (number 10 to be exact), but Derek said, "I want you to take this bottle and age it for a few years so we can get an idea of how it tastes." At the time he gave me this bottle Ontarians thought it tasted pretty good, not only did Derek sell out quickly of this $12 Riesling (a real bargain), but he also won an award for best Riesling at the Ontario Wine Awards for it. I had written on the bottle "Derek wants to know what I think of this wine after a stay in my cellar" - and I guess now I am about to tell him. The initial nose (upon opening) was heavy on gasoline; the taste was high octane with lemony-peachy notes with high acidity - but the sweet petrol was powerful and overtook much of the flavours. After about 20 minutes the wine calmed down a little, the petrol notes settled, though it was still there, and we were able to pick out big citrus tastes including grapefruit and lemon rind and an acidity that really rocked the tongue. It aged pretty well, though still suffers from "premature petrol" that most (if not all) 2005 Ontario Rieslings came to get.

October 11, 2009

Norman Hardie 2005 County Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted October 2009) ... Norm Hardie isn't known for making Cabernet Franc, his specialties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; he's also been known to make a pretty good Riesling and Pinot Gris, this would have been his first Cabernet Franc at his eponymous winery. 2005 was a pretty good year for Ontario reds, though it was a short crop year (meaning we had far less fruit then usual due to a worse than usual winter). This Franc is very Pinot like with a nose that's very raspberry and smoky with tobacco notes. The palate also screams Pinot Noir, so much so that I re-checked the label to make sure it really did say "CabernetFranc": light red fruit, cranberry, sour cherry and some tobacco with a tart acidic finish. There was also a fair bit of earthiness on both the nose and palate, which was another reason I had to re-look at the label. This tasted like a Franc made by a Pinot producer - or a Franc that was mislabelled; either way it was unrecognizeable as a Cabernet Franc, but it was far from a bad wine.

October 6, 2009

Southbrook 1999 Triomphe Merlot - Lailey Vineyard

Found October 2009

To say I enjoyed this wine is an understatement. Heck, to say I really enjoyed this wine would also be an understatement ... this was a fantastic wine. I found this 10 year old Merlot in my wine cellar while doing some re-arranging (I do that every so often, it re-familiarizes me with what I have, let's me see bottles I never knew I had - and some I wish I didn't). Those who have followed my Lost and Found column know that when I first really got into wine Southbrook was my "local" winery; they started out in the Richmond Hill area (only 30 minutes north of Toronto - 20 if you drove quickly). So I seem to have a treasure trove of old Southbrook bottles in my collection. The reason for that is that both Bill Redelmeier (owner) and then winemaker, Derek Barnett, who were often found manning the wine store counter, would always talk about the age-ability of their wines. And they weren't just whistling Dixie with this one. There is so much going on in this wine at this age it really is hard to describe completely. There's still fruit, most of it dried, and hints of green pepper; one moment your tasting the dried fruit and the green pepper pokes in for a sip, then there's some oak influence that takes over, then a spicy character comes through with his friend herb, and near the end of the glass (some 2 hours later) I could have sworn I had chocolate, black cherry and butterscotch caramel in my mouth. Now granted there was some dustiness to those flavours, but they were there, dry and smooth as silk. Anybody who doubts the age-worthiness of Ontario wine should really check out what Southbrook was making in the late 90's, then come back to me and we'll talk. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure +

October 4, 2009

Moutain Road Wine Company 2002 Reserves: Cabernet and Cabernet Franc

Found October 2009

Tonight it was a two-fer finding, two Mountain Road Reserves from the great 2002 vintage. It didn't start out to be a two-fer evening, granted I found both bottles at the same time, but I figured I'd try one tonight and one tomorrow. I opened the 2002 Cabernet Franc Reserve first, and good thing I did. There was a funny smell emanating from the glass, then it hit me, volatile (nail polish) mingled with green pepper. I tried to decant the wine, and then I waited a bit, hoping it would blow off, but it never did - even 4 hours later it still hung on in the glass that I left on the counter. And just because I am "that kind of guy" I tasted it and received a mouthful of green pepper shellacked in nail polish. Not as nice as it sounds, trust me.

Therefore, it was with a little trepidation that I opened the next bottle, the 2002 Cabernet Reserve. I can only assume this is a blend of Cabs, Sauvignon and Franc, because there is nothing written on the label as to the make up of the wine or the percentages. This one showed a touch of volatility, but the red berries, sweet vanilla oak and chocolate liqueur over took that. Decanting helped to rid the wine of its minor fault. Tasting proved it to be sweet in the mouth with cranberry cocktail flavours on the mid-palate. The wine still tasted fresh, had lively acidity and a long pleasant finish, which had a bit of raisiny sweetness to it. The colour was good too: red with the barest hint of browning. Delightful, and it got better as the night wore on. Lost & Found Rating: Cabernet Reserve - Treasure; Cabernet Franc Reserve - Trash

September 7, 2009

Ridgepoint Wines 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

(Re-Tasted September 2009) ... This is a double medal winning wine - Gold (All Canadian Wine Championships) and Silver (Ontario Wine Awards) - that signals not bad pedigree for longevity. There is plenty in this wine to make me think it has yet to peak; yet there are other signs that tell me it may be at its plateau and won't get much better. The nose is loaded and complex (so too is the palate) so there are plenty of smells to distinguish: blackberry, oak, licorice, plenty of green pepper, spice, cassis and even a touch of cocoa. The palate also shows complexity: pepper, spice and black currant, there's still good tannin grip on the tongue, but there is also a fair bit of oak tannins here, and green pepper comes through loud and clear unless you decide to decant (I used a Vinturi to smooth it out, little gadget seems to work, though I am still putting it through its paces). Decanting seemed to soften the green-pepper to a dull roar. Finally, there's a nice long finish on this one with hints of gritty-sawdust like tannins left behind on the tongue ... makes me thinl that maybe she hasn't peaked quite yet. As you can tell I am still on the fence about this one, but it is getting close to peak or plateau so now's the time to drink (within a year or 2) - lucky I have one bottle left to test in two years, then I will know for sure. Had I been able to keep the bottle open for 3-hours I think I would have a better handle on it, but alas the bottle was polished off in an hour ... maybe next time.

August 31, 2009

D'Angelo Vineyards 2002 Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted August 2009) ... At first, I was not sure I was going to like this wine, nothing scares me more than seeing a plastic cork on a bottle of aged wine; more often than not I taste a little plastic in the glass. This time thankfully I did not, but it did seem to be bland, boring and nondescript ... at first. When this happens the question that is always asked to me is, what do you do, wait or dump? I have patience when it comes to wine (and so should you), thereby giving the wine a chance, after all it has been cooped up in bottle for quite some time, in this wine's case 5 years - see how you would feel, and how slowly you would open up, if that happened to you. Turns out the wine went from its original state of nondescriptiveness to something drinkable in a little under half an hour. The wine ended up smelling pretty good and matching well with food. The nose showed dried black fruits, oak and hints of graphite. Palate-wise there was licorice, vanilla, oak and still had a titch of spice, though it also managed to be quite smooth and easy going. This wine is not going to get any better the longer it sits, it's ready now - just give it some time before you pass judgement on it.

August 30, 2009

Pelee Island Winery 2003 Vinedressers Cabernet Sauvignon

Found August 2009

Pelee Island really doesn't get the credit they deserve. Yes they are one of the culprits in the Cellared in Canada fiasco gripping this province, but they also make plenty of VQA wines, and the ones that really should be getting a shout out are the Vinedressers (Reserve) series of wines that are only available at the winery. These are some pretty consistent wines year in and year out. Take this Cabernet Sauvignon as an example, from the mediocre 2003 vintage - the smells consist of white pepper and red fruit with hints of toasted licorice root. Palate-wise it took time to open, but when it did there was lots to appreciate: pepper, red fruit and dried blackberries, a bit of barrel toast and a pleasant thoroughly enjoyable mouth feel that slid smoothly across the tongue. This wine has definitely peaked - so I you have any, now's the time to drink up. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure

August 29, 2009

Legends Estates Winery 2002 Baco Noir

Found August 2009

My bother and sister-in-law love Baco, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to drag something out of the cellar that I might not have brought out at any other time. Truth is I had it on the taste list about six months ago, but it was for brunch and it just didn't seem right to subject folks to old Baco at 11 in the morning. The nose has become cassis-liqueur-like with smoky-black licorice notes. The palate pretty much follows what the nose is offering up with smoky, pruny, dried cassis like flavours ... hardly any tannins, so the wine is very smooth - but there is a sour-bitter-ish finish. My brother and sister-in-law polished off the bottle so I guess they liked it, I found the acid and bitter finish to much to handle over th course of an evening. Lost & Found Rating: Tolerable, for Baco fans.

August 16, 2009

Chateau des Charmes 2002 Estate Cabernet Merlot

(Re-Tasted August 2009) ... Another day, another re-taste, another surprise. Today's re-taste is a Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Merlot blend from the great vintage of 2002. I remember this vintage as one of the first great ones of the millennium. Now sure it pales in comparison to what we had in 2005 and 2007 but '02 was still a very collectable vintage, when it comes to red wines in Ontario - I have a rack ust full of these babies waiting for inclusion in the Taste it Again or Lost & Found columns. Tonight we're trying again one of my favourite wines from the '02 vintage (because I was just such a fan of the 1999 version of this wine). The nose has blackberry and cinnamon - but this takes some time to open up, that's why I used the glass-to-glass method (pouring wine from one big glass to another a number of times to coax the wine to open up - this is great when you don't have time to decant because you can accomplish it in a mere fraction the time). The taste is blackberry with some vanilla oak notes and some tannin bite. When the cork is first popped this wine has a bit of a bitter finish, but when opened it smoothes right out and is quite sippable. The colour of the wine is is still very youthful, but keep in mind this wine needs lots of aeration to get it to the point of easy enjoyment. Decant or try the glass-to-glass method. I have a few more bottles, and we'll be looking at this wine again in the coming years.

August 15, 2009

Marynissen Estates 2002 Cabernet Merlot

(Re-Tasted August 2009) ... Tonight was my mother's 71st birthday - it you've met my mother then you will not believe that last statement, but it is true. So tonight I thought 'let's try something special'; I scoured my wine rack in search of something old yet with the possibility of being wonderful. Marynissen has been making good reds since the very beginning, in fact these may be some of the oldest red grape vines in Ontario (vinifera I mean). John Marynissen passed earlier this year and in many of his bios you would have read about what a pioneer he was to the industry, planting Cabernet Sauvignon in 1978 when eveyone else thought it foolhardy. I remember trying this wine for the first time and being blown away by it's power and hopeful longevity - 2002, after all, was a very good vintage here in Ontario, paling now to the 2005 and monster 2007 vintage. Tonight I also tried my first experiment with a little aeration device called Vinturi.

The wine when poured directly from the bottle was a little on the harsh side, the Vinturi seemed to soften it ... something that time did on it's own (3 hours open in a glass on the counter) but the Vinturi did it in half the time and by the glass. Now back to the wine itself. The nose had pronounced forest floor, vanilla oak, dried sour cherries and dried blackberries aromas. The taste was of cedar and dried blackberry but very smooth (3 hours later and when Vinturied) ... there was also bits of grit and lots of sediment, so I should have used a filter. All-in-all a very impressive wine and an impressive first use of the Vinturi ... but I have to give the full nod to the wine - the gadget can only make a good wine better, it cannot improve a crappy wine; John Marynissen gave me that opportunity by producing something of excellent and long lived quality. He will be missed.

August 8, 2009

Cave Spring Cellars 1999 Indian Summer Riesling

Found August 2009

This bottle was given to Erica and I the night after our engagement, I think we were suppose to drink it with those that had come to celebrate this momentous occasion with us, but after 3 or four bottles (potentially more, I think I lost count here), food and much merriment the bottle was never opened, so we saved it for a rainy day, so to speak. Turns out on the day we drank it was a rainy day – and exactly three months to the day after our engagement. Tonight I was meeting members of her extended family (Uncle John and Aunt Diane) for dinner. This was the wine we served for dessert with a plum cake, turns out this was a highlight of the meal – except for my pulled pork, which was also a hit (and I can’t fail to mention Erica’s wonderful salads). The first thing everybody noticed was the golden colour of the wine, like apple juice-like but deeper. Those expecting fresh, fruity and lively would have been disappointed, though this wine still had quite a bit of spunk. The nose was rather simple with vanilla and cooked fruit notes, very similar to a compote of apples, pears and peaches. In the mouth is where you could really pick out the individual fruits like dried apple and pears; there were also notes of butterscotch-toffee and vanilla. The sweetness was still quite apparent, and it was balanced out by a nice seam of acidity. This wine has held up very well – not sure how much time it has left, or how much cooked/dried fruit you like in your wine but it is drinking very nicely now. Lost + Found Rating: Treasure.

July 26, 2009

Coyote's Run 2005 Cabernet

(Re-Tasted July 2009) ... After the debacle that was the La Frenz Gewurztraminer I managed to locate a bottle or Coyote's Run 2005 Cabernet, a blend of the Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon. 2005 was a good year here in Ontario (if you don't mind a short crop) and the red wines turned out very well, and ageable. This wine is still in its infancy, at only 4 years from vintage date, and it still has some grip as well as lovely flavours.

At first I was concerned, the opening salvo to the nose was lots and lots of green pepper ... but that dissipated quickly leaving many more interesting aromas to develop over the next 2 hours: spiced-blueberry, cinnamon-raspberries, a touch of black licorice and at the tail end of the 2 hours some lovely black raspberry. The palate also showed plenty of complexity: dark fruit with lots of vanilla flavours kicked us off, then it moved into cinnamon, graphite and oak character while the dark fruit remained. There was a nice pleasant smoothness through the mouth right up to the point where pepper and gritty tannins left behind a long lasting impression. This one has a few years left in it for sure, so you can safely open now and enjoy, or let it sit for a bit and enjoy it later - either way you're on solid ground.

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July 25, 2009

Colio Estate Winery 2002 Barrel Aged Cabernet Franc Reserve

(Re-Tasted July 2009) ... Some might read this review as a negative review - but in truth it is nothing of the sort - it is just an okay review of a 7 year old wine. This is a wine that seems to have lost its character. Back in the day it had big tannins, lots of berries and other fruits, along with spices and a grippy finish. Today, it seems to be just a wine. The flavours are nondescript, but that's not a bad thing. It has little in the way of smell too, but again, not a bad thing. There are some woodsy notes in the mouth, but not enough to really write home about. This wine has turned into a plain everyday house wine, you know you're drinking a wine, but there are no varietal characteristics ... it's flat and uneventful; but that does not make it bad, it just makes it something to sip on ... it won't wow the crowd, but then again it won't offend either. It's perfectly approachable and pleasant, but don't expect to strike up a long conversation about it.

July 24, 2009

Sanson Estate Winery 2002 Bird Dog Red

(Re-Tasted July 2009) ... After the atrocity that was the Muscedere 2004 Cab Franc Reserve, I decided to give another Lake Erie wine a go: Sanson's Bird Dog Red. Dennis Sanson, is one of the unheralded winemakers of the Lake Erie North Shore region - it seems that everything he touches turns to liquid gold - or at least something close. This is his 2002 Bird Dog Red, a Bordeaux blend of Franc, Sauv and Merlot and it has aged well. The nose seemed to be ever-changing throughout the few hours the wine remained open, starting out as pepper and herbs, segueing into hints of green pepper and then moving on to include a little vanilla about an hour and a half in. The palate was also peppery from the get go, then came a touch of fruit, blackberry, for a brief visit, before the secondary flavours of pepper and spice took over for the long haul. It smoothed quite noticeably in the time it was opened (3 hours), and fruit did drift in an out of the realm of recognition, but mainly this wine was dominated by herbs and spice, which did most of the talking. For those interested, and who still have a bottle in the cellar, I do believe this is a last chance bottle, meaning that it does not have many years ahead of it, but it is still quite drinkable.

Muscedere Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Franc Reserve

(Re-Tasted July 2009) ... When will winemakers and winery owners learn not to put wines under plastic cork ... heck I hope it's soon because I am tired of wasting a lot of time, money and taste buds on these atrocities. First things first, if you make a wine that you think will age, find a screwcap or a cork to seal it under, forgo the plastic cork, please. I remember liking this wine back in January 2006 - in fact I called it good value and recommended buying a few to lie down. So I now must apologize, had I remembered it was a plastic cork I would have told you back then to drink it up, and quick. This wine, from the very get go, had a funny taste and smell - once I got through that and started to identify what it was turning into I was able to pick out green pepper and smoky notes, and these aromas followed through on the palate.

I hope Rob and Fabio (owners of Muscedere) have changed over their closer, if not, be ready for more of the same in the coming years.

July 15, 2009

Mountain Road Wine Company 2004 Botrytis Affected Riesling

(Re-Tasted July 2009) ... Today's word is "outstanding". That is the best word I can come up with to describe this wine. Back in 2006, when I reviewed this wine for the first time, I said it was under-valued. Today Steve Kocsis, winemaker and owner of Mountain Road has rectified that situation by putting this wine is a half bottle (375ml). But back in 2006 he was selling this beauty in a 750ml for $17.95 and people thought he was crazy ... today I don't think that opinion about Steve's state of mind has changed, but the wine sure has, and for the better. The nose is a beautiful combination of apricots, dried pineapple and a touch of petrol. The palate is just as interesting with lots of dried sweet fruits: pineapple, apricot, mango, and papaya - the only problem is that with such a big bottle it's hard to finish it ... well, not that hard - but still it is a lot of sweetness to deal with all in one sitting. The wine is also a bit on the thick side, meaning it has some viscosity, but nothing that's off-putting, it just has an anticipation factor when pouring (like Heinz ketchup - but much less thick). I also made note of the nice golden colour that this wine has taken on. Looking at my inventory it seems I still have another bottle of this one kicking around, and boy am I happy about that.

July 12, 2009

Chateau des Charmes 1999 Estate Cabernet-Merlot

(Re-Tasted July 2009) ... It was once said to me that "wine tastes better in the presence of the winemaker" - I am sure that anybody who has experienced tasting with a winemaker can attest to that. Tonight I got a rare opportunity to taste a bottle of Chateau des Charmes 1999 Cabernet-Merlot Estate Bottle with the Bosc family - but this story has a little bit of a twist, it was a bottle that I had been storing for the last 4 or 5 years, and it had traveled 2000km to get to the table.

On July 2nd I found myself enroute to the Annual Pine Island tasting held on an island just south of North Bay ... knowing that I would not be returning to my abode until the 13 of July, I knew I had to take the bottle with me. So I packed it carfeully in bubble wrap and into a cooler bag, packed with bubble wrap around it to keep it safe - this is where the bottle resided for the next 10 days. I then stored the wine in our cabin on the island, thankfully the weather never hit a temperature above 20 (celsius). My next stop was in the US of A (Detroit), where I visited with my fiancee for a few days and kept the bottle in its bag in her cool basement. Then to Niagara I went - where the bottle had to rest in a trunk all day as the temperature outside rose. At this point I bought a couple bottles of cold water and stowed them in the bag with the bottle, as a gauge as to how well the bottle was being insulated. Thankfully when I returned to my B&B that evening the water was still cool. Finally, the bottle made its way, 10 days later, to the Bosc table where we pulled the cork and I held my breath. Had I ruined this carefully stored bottle that I had launched my website with (as the first red reviewed) back in April 2005? Had I taken enough care of this bottle through all this moving about? It was show time ...

Paul Bosc Jr. popped the cork and gave it a sniff - he then poured a little off and sampled it, so did I. I little smoky and dark fruitish. We let the wine breathe in the bottle for an hour. Now back in 1999, Junior was not the winemaker, Paul Bosc Sr. was, and he showed up to try the bottle (this is where the part about "in the presence of the winemaker" comes in). The wine proved to have a life all it's own - still with vibrant fruit, it actually tasted young, this 10 year old bottle that had been hauled from town to town tasted young. The nose was black fruited, on the dry side, with licorice and raspberry notes. The flavour was black fruit, vanilla with a hint of pine, sour raspberry and cassis. The tannins still had a grip yet smoothed through the mouth - and kept those flavours with barely a change over the next three hours. Outstanding wine, "a vintage on par with 2002," said Paul Jr. I have some bottles of the 2002 Estate Cabernet Merlot - I guess we'll see if that statement really is true in 2012.

July 10, 2009

Colio Estate 2006 Riesling

Found July 2009

Sometime it's not about what you find in your cellar, it's what you find in someone else's. Last night I discovered this '06 Colio Riesling in my fiancee's wine rack. Now truth is before she met me she did not have a "wine rack", she had a couple of bottle stashed away in her basement (one's a Chianti and one's a Merlot), which someone had given her and she put away to 'drink later' and never got around to it ... probably because red is not her thing (one day I'll brave the Chianti). Then when she met me, well her vineous life changed, which means she drank more wine (and that's a big change for a beer girl. She liked whites more than reds, Riesling was a favourite along with some Pinot Gris and Vidal - but nothing too sweet, and for sure she likes it dry; and that's what is now in her cellar, a lot of whites and a smattering of reds that I have collected here (in Michigan) for my consumption. She'll try the occasional red, but she really is a white-girl. Now enough about her, what have we discovered here in her cellar. This Colio Riesling is only 3 years old, so still a baby, the nose is very fruity with melon and green apple being the prominent smells, there's is also a lovely honeysuckle note that really ties the aromas together and keeps you sniffing with every sip. The palate proved just as inviting: mac apple, honeydew, lemonade with just the right amount of sweetness through the mid palate before finishing dry and lovely. The aftertaste linger for just the right amount of time, not too long, not too short, just enough time before your craving another sip. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure

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Maleta Winery 2005 Cabernets

(Re-Tasted May 2009) ... I had the opportunity to give this one a re-taste during the 42 Wines / 21 Wineries event held in Toronto. I was so impressed with how it tasted that I reviewed it, gave it 4 1/2 stars and was prepared to put it in my newsletter - then suddenly I realized I had reviewed it previously. So instead of putting it in the newsletter, it moves here to the Taste it Again section, where I will now post my re-review of this wine with a smile, that's because I noted in my previous review (of November 2007); "Still a little closed this wine will require another 2-3 years of bottle age to open up a bit ...", and I was right. By the way, this wine is still for sale at the winery and an excellent pick up indeed, only $15.95.

Sometimes a winery can really do you a favour by holding onto a wine. The average time between purchase and consumption of a bottle is anywhere between 12-48 hours – that doesn’t leave a lot of time for ageing the wine and allowing it to develop and come into its peak period. Maleta is just now releasing their ’05 blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc. 2005 was a good growing season for red grapes and for making ageable red wines. This one spent 2 years in a mix of French, American and Hungarian oak, all that age has given great complexity to the wine on both the smell and in the taste: smoky, blackberry, raspberry, cinnamon, spice as well as a plethora of other dark nuances of berries and herbs. There’s also great acidity, and good bite on the tongue from those tannins. An easy cellar candidate for the next 5 years, but also something to drink in the next 12-48 hours. Priced for a multiple purchase so that you can do both.

July 2, 2009

Hillebrand Winery 2006 Trius White

(Re-Tasted July 2009) ... If memory serves correctly this is the first year that wine maker Darryl Brooker concocted this blend. I remember it having Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay and some Pinot Gris – but then sometimes my memory fails as to content – but I do remember this was a very nice wine. In my conversation with Darryl, I remember him saying it leaned more towards a drink-now style than anything meant to age. I have learned over the years that winemakers can be pretty conservative about their wine’s age-ability assessments (especially Darryl, who seems to undercut everything); but this time I think he was right on the money with his assessment. Don’t take that to mean the wine has gone bad, it just has lost a lot of the freshness that made this wine so damn tasty a few years back. Today the first smell was a bit on the sulphury side, but that blew off in a minute of two. Next up the nose were some melon and apricot smells, but not of the fresh variety, and hints of floral began to peak out the more air that got in. The palate showed signs of floral, apple and over-ripe peach, but left a rather unpleasant aftertaste behind and the acidity seemed fairly flat too. After about two hours some acidity returned and the flavours blossomed a little more, but by then most people were onto red and had no use for a wine that didn’t wow from the start. My advice would be to decant this one and take your chance.

July 1, 2009

Southbrook Winery 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon - Lailey Vineyard

Found July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day! To celebrate I looked at a lot of different wines to pour into my glass - I even looked at a couple of wine from Washington State, but that seemed sacrilegious; so I went deep into my cellar, back 10 years, and discovered a bottle of Southbrook 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon - Lailey Vineyard. This is wine from back in the day when Lailey was still just growing grapes and Southbrook was still making wine in a barn in Richmond Hill.

You should have seen the thick paint like substance on the cork, surprising because I had this bottle standing up for at least three weeks before pulling the cork. I open it slowly but still manage to spray a few glasses and the counter with thick red (almost black) ooze. In the glass the colour is still very red, more blood red than crimson. Sediment is very fine and wispy in the glass, leaving patterns on the glass and when swirled they look like schools of fish swimming around near the bottom.

The nose still has hints of fruit and spice (black fruits and peppery spice) but there is other underlying smells: coffee grounds, black licorice, a touch of forest floor, dried tea leaves, and dried red fruit; there's also a spicy wood smell starting to develop (some 30 minutes in).

The palate also shows real signs of life here. Tannins have mellowed to a dull roar, though they are still there. The fruit is fading with flavours on the peppered and dried side. A touch of wood spice and dried leaves ... bit of tea leaf on the tongue, but there's a good replay of acidity and long finish that hints of vanilla-cinnamon wood with a bit of white pepper.

I could probably sit, sip and analyze this wine right up to the last drop. Suffice it to say that I am impressed with this wine; for a 10 year-old Cab it is very impressive and still has a few more years ahead of it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to go enjoy what's left of Canada Day with this fantastic wine. Happy 142 Canada. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure ++

June 21, 2009

Chateau des Charmes 2005 Estate Bottled Riesling

(Re-Tasted June 2009) ... In 1967 The Lovin' Spoonfuls sang a song called "Boredom" ("my whole life is boredom"), these are the same guys that sang "Did you ever have to make up your mind" and "What a day for a daydream". Unfortunately, there was no day dreaming about this wine and we made up our minds pretty quickly ... in 2009 this wine was boring ("my this Riesling is boring"). I am sitting here on a sunny day in Michigan, staring out at a blue sky and the temperature heading north of 80 (that's about 25 on the celsius scale) and I am staring into a glass of Riesling that has either entered a very boring stage or its lifecycle or is on its way down. I would like to just believe it's in a "dumb phase", a place in a wine's life where nothing exciting is happening, but if you were to open it in another year, or had opened it the year before, it would sparkle. There was petrol on the nose and a touch of over ripe, bruised apple; the palate pretty much confirmed that, but the acidity and sweetness seems to have failed the wine and it just sat on the tongue without bringing enjoyment or pleasure. Not sure if I have any of this one left, but if I do it would be nice to look at it again in another year or so, to see if it really was just dumb or boring at 4 years old, either way, at this point anyway, it was a disappointment.

June 5, 2009

Chateau des Charmes 2002 St. David's Bench and Paul Bosc Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

To read the original review from July 2006 click on the vineyard below:

St. David's Bench - Paul Bosc Vineyard

(Re-Tasted June 2009) ... This is the story of two wines that might surprise you, even 7 years from their vintage date. First, let's take a minute to talk about the terroir of these two wines - or better yet, the proximity to one another. It may not seem like much separates these two vineyards, but that little stretch of road means so much. You see (for those who have been to Chateau des Charmes) the St. David's vineyard is what the Chateau sits in the middle of; while the Paul Bosc vineyard is located just across the parking lot; separated by a piece of asphalt called "York Road", but amazingly that makes all the difference.

I opened these wines on two consecutive nights so that I could compare them. Starting with the St. David's Bench wine. This one had a lovely nose of toasted cinnamon, dried blackberries and black fruits along with a vanilla-cedar note. The taste was full of peppered-blackberries some tannin bite along with cinnamon and vanilla. As time wore on with this wine other flavours emerged, including hints of bittersweet chocolate, a cedar-black licorice finish and a pleasant cafe mocha aftertaste.

The Paul Bosc bottle was quite different. For starters, the first bottle I opened was badly corked, thankfully I was able to locate another in my cellar, but still you never like to see a wine you've been ageing go bad (or be bad from the start, as this case may be). Once the second bottle was opened the true smells and flavours of this wine came out. A nose loaded with black fruit, spice and some vegetal notes, though that blew off within the first 15 minutes. Taste-wise there were lots of spices and pepper along with some pleasant black fruit flavours. This wine showed little signs of its age, with no hints of the dried fruit that was in the St. David's bottle; and there was still quite a bit of youthful tannins, big fruit and spice.

It's amazing to compare these two wines ... sure it's just a road, but it's the road that makes all the difference; that and the two different soils the grapes are grown in. Both wines still have plenty of time left in them, though I would say the David's has less - say 3 or 4 years, while the Bosc shows no signs of slowing down in it's evolution, another 5+ years here.

May 30, 2009

Colchester Ridge Estate Winery 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot

(Re-Tasted May 2009) ... Here's a winery I have been impressed with since the get go, so I was excited to see a bottle of their wine come up in my Taste it Again program. If you haven't heard of Colchester Ridge then you haven't been anywhere near the Lake Erie North Shore region (outside Windsor) and you're missing out on one the unsung and up-and-coming wineries of Ontario; year-in and year-out this "new" (est. 2001) winery brings out wine that are as good or better than anyone in the region, and great examples of the vintage in Southern Ontario. The Lake Erie region has a longer growing season than Niagara or Prince Edward County and even in "bad" years they take advantage of this extra growing time. 2004 is far from the best year we've had this decade, but in this wine you'd never guess it. Upon opening there's wood, lot's of wood (which in some cases is used to mask problem years),but thankfully it's not overpowering, though it was certainly enough to cause some initial concern. Twenty-minutes later all that changed. The woodsy started to settle down and revealed herbs and spices, there's a smoothness to the palate and hints of dark, slightly dried fruit began to emerge. Forty-minutes on and its herbs and subtle green pepper notes that take center stage, still with that nice easy smoothness. After almost two hours the wine has reverted back to the start with lots of wood and some herbal notes. If you've got some in your cellar now's the time to drink this wine, but let it sit open for half an hour before drinking, and then drink over the next two.

May 29, 2009

Mountain Road Wine Company 2002 Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted May 2009) ... I have been sitting on a mountain of 2002 wines from Ontario (no pun intended, I swear). It would be safe to say that I have at least 40 different bottles of 2002 just waiting for me to try them (either again or that have become "lost") - this number also doesn't cover the amount of multiple bottles I have, just the number of different wines. You see, 2002 was the first big vintage of the new millennium, some might argue 2001 was pretty good too, but 2002 was a year to crow about, and many wineries did. Since then we have seen good years in 2005 (although short cropped) and the monster 2007 (from which wines are still coming onto shelves). In my inventory I noticed I had a few different bottles from Mountain Road, I'll get into the reserves I little later in the week (which I had not previously reviewed), but I thought I would start looking back right here, with this 2002 Cabernet Franc.

This is a wine I would call a "window wine", that's because it drinks in a certain window; let me explain. I opened the bottle and was immediately struck by a peppery smell, then the green pepper materialized, I expected that because it was in my original note. But instead of fresh green pepper it was more of a roasted green pepper, with toasty charred-like notes. The flavours revealed littled, just lots of dry woodsy flavours. So out came the decanter and the trials began.

With quite a bit of air the wine's nose soften even more, still on the roasted green pepper side but soft and fairly aromatic (if you like the smell of green pepper that is). With air the palate produced more black pepper and spicy tastes along with biting tannins and plenty of acidity. The fruit has almost completed dropped out of this wine and the flavours have become mostly secondary characteristics (barrel notes - woods and spices). The longer it remained opened and the more air the more bitter the finish became, so the "window of drinking" is somewhere within 30 minutes to an hour of opening, or swirl it around in the decanter for about a minute or two.

This wine is rough around the edges and the finish is a little on the bitter side, so not one for drinking on its own. What I did find quite appealing was how well it did go with food. I decided on chicken tonight and with each bite and sip I took together I noticed the wine added a nice smokiness to the food - bbq'ed flavour without the grill.

May 20, 2009

Mastronardi 2005 Brianje Riesling

Found May 2009

Considering that many of the 2005 Rieslings I have tried have been loaded with an over abundance of petrol (more than they should for a 4-5 year old wine) I approached this wine with a little trepidation as to how it had stood up. Before going on allow me to tell you how this bottle ends up lost, and found. My fiancee is a buyer of wine (not much, but enough) and less of a consumer - she refuses to open a bottle when she is by herself; which usually means I have wine to drink when I am visiting her place in Michigan. Until recently though, most of her wine has been stored in boxes, when she moved into her new place I made sure she had some wine racks and I organized her cellar (about 40 bottles). Much to my surprise I found lots of Ontario whites and a few oddball reds (a 2001 Chianti, a 2003 Cab and an 2004 Zinfandel) amongst them. I also got her a glass rack that holds four bottles for her kitchen - to remind her that 1) It's okay to drink alone; 2) You have wine at your disposal; and 3) I'm going to make it easy on you to fulfill 1 and 2 ... alas she still doesn't drink alone - so it must be me who's the alcoholic (wink). Anyway, I pulled this Riesling off the rack (and chilled it in the fridge) on a day where the Michigan sun was high in the sky and the temp had topped at a quite balmy (and breezy) 17 degrees (Celsius). The aromas on this wine were muted melon, mac apple, some orange rind and just a hint of petrol kicking around in the background. The tastes were perfect for the breezy-balmy day we found ourselves part of, more pronounce melon and apple, subtle notes of rindy-petrol and a sweet tangerine finish. Lovely, and so was the hour we found ourselves sipping it over. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure

April 28, 2009

Southbrook 1999 Triomphe Cabernet Franc

Found April 2009

The more I try the Southbrook older vintage wines made by winemaker Derek Barnett, the more impressed I am with not only his abilities (at such an early stage of his career), but the philosophy of this young winery at the time. Those who have read my previous Lost & Found articles know about my history with Southbrook, my closest neighbourhood winery, and Bill Redelmeier's mantra about wanting his wines to have ageability ... he found a kindred spirit in winemaker Barnett, who makes his wines in the same vein even today (but now with Lailey). Ten years on this wine is spectacular; even more interesting is that you can pour it straight from the bottle or decant, and still get similar flavours and enjoyment. This wine is vibrant and alive with smells of cinnamon, cedar and big black cherries. Hard to believe this wine is ten years old, as it shows little signs of the dried fruit of age on the nose. Decanted: vanilla-cinnamon-cherry.

Tastes were similar to what you got on the nose, offering up blackberry, black cherry and cassis - good fruit and all black; while the finish was smooth with creme-brulee over and under tones. The only word I can use here is spectacular. Tannins have settles and there was also a slight white pepper note, but this wine has hit, not only its stride, but possibly its apex of life. Wine lives on an ageing curve and this one is right on top of the hill - how long it'll stay there is unknown, but its amazing when you find one of these and have a chance to drink it. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure ++

Flat Rock 2004 Gravity Pinot Noir

(Re-Tasted April 2009) ... I have heard it said that Pinot Noir is one of those weird grapes that has an ebb and flow to its aging process. Here's what I mean: Let's say you open a bottle of 2004 in early January of 2008 and the wine is beautiful and succulent with lots of berries and cherries - the kind of wine you are happy to own, your experience tells you that the wine can age another 4 to 5 years with ease. Wanting to capture that wine moment again you open a bottle of the same wine 6 months later, it's lackluster, no sign of fruit and little indicatiojn that this is even wine. Ready to pitch your case of 2004 you get unexpectedly sidetracked and the wine remains in your cellar another year. You come across it and remember the nasty stuff you tried - curious you pop the cork and try it again ... this time the wine is sublime. And that's Pinot Noir, not just a heartbreaker but a head-scratcher as well. Today, I opened up my last remaining bottle of Flat Rock's 2004 Gravity Pinot - one of my favourites from that vintage - and I found myself disappointed. Sure there are Pinot smells here, earthy, anise seed, forest floor, and fruits that aren't exactly fresh but not dried out either. The taste is another mystery of sorts: earthy forest floor, dried cranberry, slightly raisiny, touch of anise but quite smooth. We call this a "dumb phase", for Pinto Noir - not showing great, but not showing all that well either - if I had another bottle I would keep it in the corner for another 6 months to a year and try it again.

April 25, 2009

Featherstone Estate Winery 2005 Riesling

(Re-Tasted April 2009) ... As I continue to experiment with ageing wine and vintage years I draw some rather interesting conclusions. One of which is that 2005 was not a good year for Riesling. Allow me to qualify that statement a little better: 2005 Riesling aren't aging very well. Riesling, one of the most ageable whites, with its high acidity and slight residual sugar, can age beautifully, developing flavours that are out of this world sublime. One of the signature smells and tastes of a well aged Riesling is petrol/gas/kerosene - a Riesling with 10 years-plus on it has this smell in spades, but they should materialize slowly over time. My findings so far, about 2005, is that those Rieslings have developed over-the-top petrol notes prematurely; and when I am talking petrol I mean sticking your head into a gas tank and breathing deep. Only 4 years from vintage date they should not have the level of gas that many of them do ... thus I can make the conclusion that the hot years (which '05 was) are unkind to the cool weather loving Riesling. This Featherstone offering follows that theory right down to the conclusion. The nose is fairly complex, adding spice and floral notes to that big petrol smell. The flavours fall off sharply with no fruit, no spice, no floral - a hit of something sweet mid-palate almost tries to redeem this wine, but it concludes with a bitter petrol aftertaste. These tastings of the '05s is a bell-weather for the 2007 Rieslings of Ontario - so unless you dig on petrol, early drinking is the key for these wines ... you can hold your 03s, 04s, 06s and the coming 08s.

April 22, 2009

Flat Rock Cellars 2004 Riesling

Found April 2009

Funny this wine should be considered part of my Lost and Found section - I do have a tasting note on it from July 2006, but I never published it. At that time I said: "A great citrus nose, but not overpowering - this wine has mellowed since it’s release and drinks quite well now; though it does have a little tartness to it and tastes like a sweet lemonade." That's when I decided to lay it down and see what happens to the high acidity. Well all that sweetness and acidity helped preserve this wine beautifully and of course there's the screwcap - help, hinder ... we'll never know cause the wine was not simultaneously bottled under cork; but I am never one to shy away from a bottle of wine no matter what it is closed with. With a click I was off with the tasting. The smell was of mild petrol tones and lemon rind, while the palate proved a little more complex. Lots of mineral and lemon drop, the petrol also appeared in the mouth, but in a very mild-mannered way. The acidity was still very good and the fruit was a mixture of mac sweet and Granny-Smith tart (not fresh but by no mean mealy and old either) giving it a nice crisp entry and smooth exit. Time has not hurt this wine in any way, in fact it was very kind to it; I think a little more time would help too. Lost & Found Rating: Treasure

April 15, 2009

Southbrook 1998 Lailey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Found April 2009

In a recent issue of Wine Access magazine (April/May 2009), my colleague David Lawrason, tasted through some back vintages of Southbrook wines. He gave his top score (93) to a 1998 Chardonnnay (I have to wonder if the current winemaker's ego is affected by that, knowing that a wine made 10 years ago outperformed your current output - I must remember to ask Ann Sperling that next time I see her) ... anyway, that got me thinking as to some of the older Southbrook wines I have in my cellar. Southbrook owner, Bill Redelmeier, is a huge proponent of ageing his wines, a philosophy and passion he shared with his then winemaker Derek Barnett - so the wines made before Barnett's departure in 2001 really have the will of the winemaker and owner on their side: heft and longevity as their backbone so to speak.

I'm now going to tell you about the little journey this wine and I took together. When I first opened the bottle the green pepper smell was almost overwhelming; but in the mouth it seemed to be more than the one-trick-pepper-pony it gave off in the smell, offering up cedar and vanilla notes, to go along with the charred-roasted green pepper. But with each sniff and sip I thought there was something hiding in the background, so I decided to whip out the decanter and give it a go. Now I have had a little discussion with a certain wine agency owner over the validity of decanting - he believes its all in our heads - if you're out there I would recommend you listen up.

0:30 ... Wine now has a smoky, woodsy, earthy character with spiced-leaves and just hints of that once powerful green pepper in the background. On the palate, the green pepper has also softened, giving way to dried fruit, pencil shavings, smoked leaves and soft leather. This wine is amazingly still very much alive, and that was quite apparent as the hour mark tasting showed.

1:00 ... Smoky, leathery and a bit gamy - the palate is smooth with earthy notes and fine Carinthian leather that Ricardo Montalbahn would have been proud to have in his Buick. There were also hints of cedar on the palate and I was thrillled to find that even some tannins were starting to peak out, adding some muscle to this wine.

1:30 ... Lots of change happened in the past half hour. Coffee has become the dominant smell and there seems to be a coffee grounds-like taste.

2:00 ... Not dead yet, but not very much alive either - somewhere in the middle - she's dying slowly here as everything seems to be falling away, leaving just an alcohol and wood based drink behind.

Ten years old and still a wonderful wine to drink - had I not been experimenting I would have consumed the bottle within the first hour. If you are lucky enough to have a bottle, decant for half an hour then enjoy. Lost & Found rating: Treasure

April 7, 2009

Huff Estates 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon / Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted April 2009) ... On this Tuesday night I opened two bottles of Prince Edward County wine - this Huff Cab Sauv/Franc and a 2004 Grange blend. These were two different, yet difficult vintages for Ontario winemakers, and the grapes, and both these wines are from an up-and-coming wine region ... so how did the Huff wine fare:

This wine offered up more than the Grange wine and it was a year older - but, did what it offer up appeal? That is the big question. The nose was big on green pepper and quite stemmy (smelled like plant stem). The colour had definitely gone from red to brick and there was lots of wine diamonds on the cork and plenty of sediment in the bottle (and in my initial glass). So I decided to decant and wait.

The initial tasting, before decanting, was not as bad as maybe the nose would have indicated. The tannins had soften over the years, the taste was soft green pepper mixed with smoky-woody flavours - think green pepper cooked over an overly smoky wood fire. The decanting did its job, and an hour later the wood had soften to a palatable level, and there were even hints of fruit, of summer's past mind you, but there was an indication of dried by-gone fruit. I thought this wine showed a lot of character - but the question still remains: do you like that kind of character?