January 30, 2009

Carmela Estates Winery 2004 Pinot Noir

(Re-Tasted January 2009) ... Those who are even a little skeptical on the winemaking ability of those in Prince Edward County should have been around when I popped the cork on this ‘04 from the County. What a marvelous piece of winemaking, though I have to admit I am not too surprised because he has becomes somewhat of a celebrated master of this particular grape here in Ontario over the past few years. For those not sure of whom I speak, I’m talking about Norman Hardie, who currently has his own eponymous winery right across the road from his former employer (Carmela). Not much info on the bottle as to the origin of these grapes (though speculation is that they came from Wismer Vineyard in Niagara) … it is a VQA Ontario, but PEC did not have their DVA designation in 2004 when these grapes were harvested, nor did they have it when this wine was released in 2005. But they did have one thing going for them, a well traveled Pinot-lover in winemaker Norman Hardie, who’s goal is to make the ultimate Ontario Pinot Noir. Here he brought the yield down to one-tonne per acre, that’s fairly radical for that time. The nose is smoky and earthy, with cinnamon, dried sour cherries and vanilla nuances. Taste-wise you’ll find spiced cherry with a vanilla mid-palate, nice tannins which still retain quite a bit of a drying kick on the tongue and a toasted cinnamon finish. Absolutely lovely, and definitely at its peak right now – I am not sure whether to open my other bottle or lay down for another couple of years just to see what happens.

As mentioned this wine is Norman Hardie-made and sold for much less than what Norm is now charging for his Pinots (at the time it was a $20 bottle) … this was the winery where he cut his teeth in the County and if you have some bottles of this you are in for a wonderful surprise … this wine shows the love and dedication Norm had/has for making really fine Pinot Noir. Kudos.

January 29, 2009

Creekside 2005 Butler's Grant Vineyard Riesling

Found January 2009

Shock of all shocks, I never once officially reviewed this wine. I’ve looked everywhere: past newsletters, On the Road articles, in the wine review section, you name it I’ve looked there – and not a peep (guess I was trying to keep this one to myself). I liked it though, enough so to buy 6 bottles in June of 2006, and I made notes every time I drank a bottle (5 in total). Here’s a sampling:

June/July 2006 - Spectacular fruit driven wine ... sugar is about a 2 and a crowd pleaser for sure. Nose of lemon and lime with peaches and apple - great taste of sweet white peach. Drinks well right now and will age for a few years to come. My favourite Riesling from the New Vintages festival held in Niagara for May 2006.

January 2008 - The petrol is beginning to develop but still has plenty of crisp acidity, citrus - apple - pear and lemon.

June 2008 - ... Delicious, great acidity and fruit, can’t believe I have gone through 5 bottles of this baby already, so much for really seeing what age can do ... was even better 3 days later.

With my last bottle, I took thorough notes … just 6 months after my previous bottle was opened the wine has developed even more, though it might finally be cresting the age-hill. There’s a light hint of petrol on the nose, mixed with smells of Welsh’s white grape juice and Vaseline. The palate, while still having that touch of petrol on it, has developed to a point where it now has a taste of cherry-tomato juice and a bit of lanolin. The finish still lingers, on the side of lime-juice, which to my taste is better than the tomato taste. The wine has finally seen its day, it’s not horrible by any stretch of the imagination, it’s most definitely still drinkable and enjoyable with enough pleasure in the mouth that a second glass is in order; but not what it used to be, when you easily could have finished the whole bottle and ordered up a second before lunch was even half over. Another point of interest, this one is now much dryer than expected. Lost & Found rating: Tolerable +.

January 16, 2009

13th Street 2004 Cabernet Franc

(Re-Tasted January 2009) ... Well paint me red and call me Charlie - actually, let's not and say we did. About a week ago I re-tasted a 2004 Cabernet Merlot from 13th Street, and while the tasting was not a disaster, it was not the greatest either. So it was with a little trepidation that I opened this bottle of Cabernet Franc wondering if it too would suffer the same way it's brother had. I have to tell you, that after trying this wine I am more convince than ever that Cabernet Franc is Ontario's grape to run with, even in a mediocre year like 2004 we can make a wine from this grape that'll age better than just decently. The nose still had dollops of spice, a touch of vanilla and hints of cherries (which showed up about half an hour after opening) ... the palate showed the telltale Ontario sign of green pepper along with a little white pepper and some sour cherry. Smooth and clean on the palate and very tasty, I would say it has aged much better than the Cab-Merlot. I wouldn't wait too much longer to drink it if you've got any, it's pleasant right now but I can't see this one getting any better.

January 15, 2009

Stonechurch 2004 Pinot Noir Reserve

(Re-Tasted January 2009) ... Goodness, gracious me ... a line most memorably uttered by Peter Sellers in a duet with Sophia Loren, and that would be the way I would describe this wine; but not in a cutesy way, like the song, but in a disappointing way - as if to say, what the heck is this stuff. I don't usually bad mouth a wine but in this column I can not sugar coat. Here I try older wines that I have stored and see where they are today. The wines are no longer available at the winery, so the only place that one could find this wine is in one's cellar - and if you have a bottle of this all I can say is, "you poor bastard". This wine was a delicious Pinot upon its release, but the years have not been kind to it at all. Could it be the fault of the plastic cork or is it faulty winemaking - I'm not sure, but this wine was absolutely abysmal. The stink emenating from the glass was not what you expect from Pinot (you expect a little earthy and a litte dirty), but this was just funky and foul. Here are my exact notes from this opening and tasting: "Not pleasant at all, awful stink on the nose with an underlying nastiness of decay and roting fruit, dirty, but not the kind you'd expect to find on a Pinot ... sour, bitter taste." I let the wine sit for an hour, two and three, after the fourth hour my notes read, "has settled into just plain nasty - old used gym sock nasty." Sorry Stonechurch, this wine did not stand the time of time - in this dimension or any other. Yuck!

January 14, 2009

13th Street 2004 Cabernet-Merlot

(Re-Tasted January 2009) ... In and amongst the reviews of 13th Street's new wines and old favourites that I have been doing of late, it just so happened that a couple of bottles of their wine has also come up for re-taste from the 2004 vintage (this one and a soon to be open Cabernet Franc). Not sure what sparked me to lay down some wines from 2004, which was a pretty mediocre vintage, but I wanted to see what would happen to a wine from a quality driven house over time from this vintage; and there is no doubt that 13th Street Winery is a quality house here in Ontario. Unfortunately, if I was trying to prove that to an outsider with this wine, I would not have won over a convert. The wine right from the bottle was green and vegetal, "reedy and weedy" as I have heard it called on occasion. I attempting decanting, which got rid of some of the tastes and smells of the weedy/reedy nature, but not enough. There is very little by way of fruit here, maybe a bit of cedar now that the air has gotten to it. 20-minutes in and the best thing I can say is that it's defintely a smooth wine, tannins are almost non-existent; it's wet and can refresh if that is what you are looking for in a wine (and doesn't do poorly with cheese, and cracker) - heck it's still drinkable, but not 13th Street's most shining moment under cork.

January 2, 2009

Inniskillin 2004 Late Autumn Riesling

Found January 2009

A bottle originally slated for a get together on Christmas Eve, it was pushed aside in favour of Miller Lite and Smirnoff’s Ice (much to my dismay) and relegated to a New Year’s bottle with Chinese food. I was impressed with this semi-sweet wine with it’s nose that still had apricots, honeyed pear and mineral notes. The palate also showed interesting notes of apple, unripe peaches, minerally pears, slight tropical fruit with a pleasant refreshing finish - though medium to short in length and lacking zippy acidity. Lost and Found rating: A little Tired but still enough of a Treasure.