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?

The Grange of Prince Edward County 2004 Cabernet-Merlot

(Re-Tasted April 2009) ... On this Tuesday night I opened two bottles of Prince Edward County wine - this Grange Cabernet-Merlot and a 2003 Huff 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 Grange wine fare:

The nose from start to finish was a little funky. When I say start to finish I mean I like to give these old wines some time to breathe, get accustomed to being outside the bottle after all these years. But the nose never did come around to anything - no fruit, no wood, nothing.

The taste was something altogether different. It started off smooth and sweet, almost port-like, no tannins were present at all, for it's first hour is was a straight forward nondescript grapey wine; meaning it tasted like grapes or juice juice - then it slowly started to develop a burnt sugar and caramel note in the sweet finish. If I were a betting man I would have to say that in this tough vintage, where proper ripening was hard to get and the alcohol making sugars were not naturally present in the grapes, they must have chaptalized the wine (added sugar) to bring the alcohol up to a respectable level (13%). But now a few years down the road the added sugar is really coming through as the only characteristic of this wine. If you like boozy grape juice then this is your wine but as far as agein any further ... how old do you like your boozy grape juice?

April 3, 2009

Rosehall Run 2004 St. Cindy Pinot Noir

(Re-Tasted April 2009) ... Before I start telling you about this wine let me say this: I really wish Dan Sullivan would ditch the plastic corks and put the real stuff (or even a screwcap) into his bottles. These plastic things are impossible to remove and yet through all the struggle they give such a piss poor seal. There I have said it and I am happy to get it off my chest ... Dan, you're making too good a wine to be messing with this plastic crap ... okay enough, on to the wine. Tonight I was of two minds, a Primitivo from Italy or a Pinot Noir from Dan Sullivan's Rosehall Run - the Pinot won out and I would have to say it was a pretty good choice. The nose was very muted, even hours after opening ... yes I nursed this one from 6:30 to about 9:30 in the hopes it would open up ... it never did. I got a touch of earthiness right from the beginning and strawberry emerged at the end (at about 9pm). - but nothing much else showed up to the nose party. The taste showed signs of cranberry and sour cherry but it too was a little on the muted side. The finish was the best part, it actually showed some character and flavour with black licorice, leather and sour cherry. They say that Pinot matures in waves ... I was certainly not at the crest of this wine, but I certainly wasn't at the bottom either - I think I caught this one on it's way up, or down.