Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Do I enjoy Aged wine

This past weekend I was able to answer a question that has been on my mind for a few months. Do I like wine with age? I felt it would be a good idea to source a bottle so I could find out if I would enjoy wine with age. My main reason for doing this was to educate myself and also I did not want to go through the trouble of aging my wine if I did not like the taste of it aged.

It was very hard to find a bottle of wine at the LCBO that was of an older vintage, as they mostly sell new vintages in their stores. Luckily they had an offering of older Lynch Bages and their sister chateau, Les Ormes de Pez. Not wanting to break the bank I was able to pick up a bottle of Chateau Les Ormes de Pez 1996 (St. Estephe) for $58. A bottle of Lynch Bages of the same vintage would have cost $349. A tad bit expensive for this experiment.

The bottle was bought back in May and was stored in my cellar until I could find a time to enjoy it. Just recently my wife and I completed our kitchen renovation, so I felt this was a good time to use it to celebrate!

In preparation of this experiment, I stood the bottle upright (Instead of its usually resting place, which is on its side). I stood the bottle up 48 hours in advance so that the sediment could make its way down to the bottom of the bottle. This makes decanting a lot easier as you do not want to drink the bitter sediment that develops in wine over time.

Before I decanted the wine, I tried a small amount first to insure that the wine was good and not flawed. Thankfully, we were blessed with a good bottle, as it gave out a beautiful aroma of cedar box, dark fruit, minerality and earth. The rest of the wine was slowly decanted and left to breath for an hour, while I prepared dinner.

***** Just a little side note on what happens to wine as it ages. As wine gets older it goes through many changes.
- Colour: Older wines will take on more of a garnet colour (orange rim) and almost look brown.
- Aroma: Earthy notes develop (mushroom, tea, floral, etc)
- Palate: Tannins soften

The wine was consumed during dinner and afterwards. It was interesting to see the wine change as time past (aroma and taste). Both my wife and I enjoyed the experience and I scored the wine an 89. It didn’t wow me but it was still very good!

Overall this experiment was a success. I am looking forward to seeing how the wines in my cellar will develop into.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bordeaux blend battle

One thing that I enjoy more than drinking wine is sharing it and educating others about wine. This weekend my family (Mom, Dad, City Sis, and my wife) went into Toronto to see the play War Horse. Great play! My wife and I then hosted my family at our house. We had flank steak with potatoes and roasted vegetables, but enough of the menu, lets get on with the set up for this battle.

Being from Ontario, Canada, I am always looking to see how Niagara wines will match up with other wines out there. To an extent, I believe that Canada can produce some great wine that can rival the world. While there is a lot of terrible Canadian wine being produced out there, there is also some fantastic wines if you know where to look. By living only an hour away from a majority of Niagara wineries, I am beginning to know where to look.

One winery that I really enjoy is Alvento Winery in Vineland, Ontario. This winery produces exceptional Bordeaux blends (Both right and left bank), a Nebbiolo, and a Vionier. This night we compared their Right bank Bordeaux blend (Sondra 2006) against Chateau Petris 2008 St.Emilion. (Not to get mistake with right bank super star winery Petrus!!) Both wines were very similar in their blend, here is the run down.
- Alvento Sondra 2006 (90% Merlot & 10% Cab Franc)
- Chateau Petris 2008 (80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cab Franc)

They were very similar in colour. The Bordeaux was a bit deeper (purple), while the Sondra was a darker brick red. I would imagine that the two years of difference could affect the colour as well as then use of Cabernet Sauignon in the Petris.

They both had that vanilla and dark fruit smell that Merlot is known for. The Alvento also had a cedar/tobacco aroma. The aromas in both wines were dominated by Merlot.

Both wines came out of the gate with black fruits (plum, black berries etc). The Alvento came out to be more acidic (Either due to the cooler climate or a poor vintage). The Patris had more of a backbone due to the cabernet. It was strong, powerful, yet lasting on the finish. Both of these wines had the smooth merlot taste to them. In the end it came down to what your wine preference is.

And the winner is......

Chateau Petris 2008
- Not by much though, the Sondra put up a good fight. My mother preferred the Sondra because she is not a fan of tannic wines. Overall everyone else gave the nod to the St. Emilion wine, but all were very impressed with how the Sondra showed.

Overall this was a great learning experience which was enjoyed by all. Looking forward to trying comparisons!



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Do I Enjoy Aged Wine?

It just dawned upon me. Do I enjoy aged wine? This thought came to me recently while in my wine cellar, admiring my collection that I have garnered over the past year.

I want to know if I should be purchasing wine to age. As well as if the wine would be worth the wait, as some of the wines that are in my cellar have not yet reached their drinkability window. So to test this out I searched for 2 things.
- A wine that can be aged. In this case the Bordeaux fits the bill.
- A wine with at least 10 years of age. Hard to find in Ontario without paying a large amount.

What did I get? 2002 Chateau les Ormes de Pez ($59) Just waiting for a good night to pop it open. Tasting notes to come! *** Just saw that LCBO will be having the 1996 in their ISD stores at the end of May! Might have to make an exchange!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Searching for Wine in Ontario LCBO's

Time and time again I see the same scenario happen at an LCBO store: A person is looking for a specific wine that they had a month ago at a friend’s house etc. The LCBO staff look it up and tell them 3 possible things 1) We have it! Follow me! 2) We are currently out of stock at all LCBO’s 3) We do not have any but you can find what your looking for at our _________ location.  

I thought about this issue while looking around an LCBO and seeing this scenario happen in front of me. The lady was looking for a Bogle Merlot. She was disappointed to know that the LCBO did not carry that producer nor the variety. I really should have helped her and given here these three options when hunting down wine in Ontario. Here are some tips when tracking down a specific bottle!

1) LCBO website search engine

- Enter in the name of the wine, or search by what you know about the wine (region, red/white, etc) This is a great start since it allows you to see right away if your wine is in stock, as well as where it is located. LCBO’s for the most part will be happy to get wine for you that is located elsewhere.

2) LCBO App

- This app works the same as the website search engine, just more convenient and has a bar code scanner as well to help you out.

3) Look up what Wine Agents has your wine in Ontario

- This is the last resort as it is more costly (may have to buy at least 6 to 12 bottles) and less convenient since it will have to be shipped to you. There are many great agencies in Ontario that can solve this problem for you.  Just search the wine producers name and type in Ontario.

In the case of the lady looking for Bogle Merlot, I would have sent her to check out Abcon International Wine Merchants.

For anything outside of Ontario you will have to travel there yourself. Either traveling to Quebec with the SAQ, or check out wine stores in Ontario’s neighbouring states (New York and Michigan).

Happy Hunting


Friday, April 6, 2012

Lailey Pinot Tasting 2009 vs 2010's

This past March 31st I found that I had some free time on my hands so I made my way down to NOTL area to do a Pinot Noir tasting at Lailey Vineyard. Their first two tastings were sold out, but luckily they open an earlier one.

As I arrived I was greeted and given their 2010 Chardonnay to start of the day. Light, crisp, with mild acidity. Very attractive wine for when the weather warms up! After we finished our chardonnay we went upstairs to where the tasting would take place. This tasting consist of five different pinots that they produce form the 2009 and 2010 season. Accompanying the wines were cheeses, sausages, and pate from local shops! Yum!

Leading the group was Lailey winemaker Derek Barnett, a great host who was very friendly and informative during the tasting. On to the tasting!

Before even touching any of the glasses it was evident the difference a vintage makes on a wine, both on the colour, aromas, tannins, and acidity! With my eyes I could see a distinct difference in the colour, the 2009 was a dark ruby (darker) while the 2010's was a light brick red. We were told that due to the cooler climate of 2009 that the pinots were more acidic and tannic, while the hotter 2010's had more fruit on the nose and palate. These characteristics were evident in all of the Pinots

2009 vs 2010 Lailey Pinot Noir ($25)
- Throughout the tasting I was generally favouring the 2010, as I felt the 2009 were a little tight (high acidity and tannins (great for opening in a few years). Overall the 2010 are more approachable. Lailey uses fruit from all of their properties to make this cuvee.

2009 vs 2010 Lailey Canadian Oak Pinot Noir ($35)
- A very interesting Pinot! Lailey is starting to use Canadian oak in their wines, testing out to see the benifits and creating a real sense of place! When tasting both Pinots it was evident of the oak. Very strong taste. In the outcome I sided with the 2010.

2009 vs 2010 Lailey Brickyard Pinot Noir ($35) Available in magnum $80
- These vines are 9 years old and are 667 & 777 Dijon clones on a 2 1/2 acre plot. Both wines possessed floral and spice on the nose. Both wines were lovely and at this point I still sided with the 2010's, as they were more approachable now. While the 2009's are going to have a better cellaring capability.

2009 vs 2010 Lailey Old Vines Pinot Noir ($45) Available in magnum $100
- These vines are about 30 year old Pommard colones, which is old for the region. Yet I explained to a women next to me that their are wineries that have vines that are well over 100 years old (Rhone Valley for example). I was very excited to try this wine when I heard they were from Pommard because I really enjoyed the wines from that sub region when my wife and I visited Burgundy last summer. These wines started to show good balance. The 2009's was more spicy while the 2010's were fruity. As we got into the high end wines, I started to enjoy both for their own qualities.

2009 vs 2010 Lailey Lot 48 ($60) Available in magnum $130
- Wow! Both of these Pinots were fabulous! The aroma on the 2010 was put best by Derek "Smells like strawberry pie!" This lot has very low yields (1.7 acres), thus the high price and quality! I felt like I could stay there and just stiff my glass of Lot 48 all day!

After the tasting they also show us that they had magnums for sale in their Brickyard, Old Vines, and Lot 48! Very tempting, considering I am starting to build a collection of big bottles, but I had to pass. Maybe another day. A magnum of Lailey Old Vines would be very intriguing to try in 10 + years though!

What a great experience! All for $20! I would for sure do this again and would bring friends! Great work Lailey!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Five Rows Winery (St. Davids)

Even though the weather was poor, I was in a great mood! I got the confirmation that I would be able to taste and visit Five Rows Winery! The winery usually doesn't open full time until May, but since the weather is improving in Ontario, they made exceptions.

Here is a little background on how I heard about Five Rows. While searching for a new winery to visit, I googled "Best Wineries to Visit in Niagara" and Five Rows came up. When reading the web site it explained how Five Rows is a low yields winery and that they are becoming some-what of a "cultish" winery because of their scares quantities and great quality of wine. While checking out their website I read more about the family run winery and how they sell out of their product really quick! Their are very well know for their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris (All sold out, but releasing their new whites this May). I was very excited to try their wines!

I was accompanied today by my mother Sue and my sister Lauren. While driving into St. Davids we took a turn a road that slowly turned into a stone road. I know we were going in the right direction because of the grape vines around us. A tiny sign indicated that the tasting room was up ahead. Five Rows is a bit different in that they don't have a huge building. Their tasting room and winery is located in a barn on the property. While walking into the barn we could see barrels and barrels of wine. All of their new releases were still in their barrel in this barn! We were greeted by Tracy and her dog. Very nice greeting and we got right into the tasting. We were able to taste the following wines that were available (Riesling 2010, Pinot Noir 2008, Shiraz 2008, and their Cabernet 2008).

We were all very impressed with the wine. The Riesling was a dry style that was enjoyed by all. The reds were just as enjoyable! Their Pinot Noir was very well balanced in it's fruit, acidity, and tannin structure. (We later heard from the winemaker Wes, that his parents were in California for a Pinot Noir competition. Allowing themselves to learn and see where their wines stack up) The Shiraz was very interesting. It was not full and jammy like an Australian Shiraz, but kind of created it's on take on the well know grape from down under. We all enjoyed this wine and my mom bought a bottle for my dad. I would imagine that this wine would age well. Lastly was the Cabernet. This was a wine that I bought because I really enjoyed it and felt that I could easily open this bottle in 5-10 years and be very impressed with what it has become.

What made the visit more memorable was that I was able to chat with their winemaker Wes. Very nice guy. You could really tell that he has a passion for wine and that it shows in his wine. I'm looking forward to going back in May to try their whites and will be very interested to try the Cabernet I bought after a few years in the cellar.

Five Rows is a must visit in Niagara!

Here is their website, be on the look out for their new releases this upcoming May! They sell fast!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spending Family Day in Niagara

Family Day has come and gone. What a beautiful day it was in Southern Ontario. My wife and I used this day to spend time with her family, as we were at my parent’s house the day before. It was a perfect opportunity for us to try some new wineries that we have yet explored.
We packed into my father-in-laws SUV and drove down to Niagara on the Lake to have lunch and look around. Lunch was not a high point for the day, as the service was slow and the food was sub-par. Worse part of it all was that we were wasting valuable time sitting in this restaurant instead of looking around down town Niagara on the Lake, or its surrounding wineries. The only looking around that we did in NOTL was to check out the local cheese shop (Cheese Secrets).  The shop had a really good variety of cheese and also carried Niagara Gold, which has become a wine favourite for the both of us. We then went back to the car and began our wine touring.
First stop was on our way out of NOTL was Stratus! I have really wanted to visit this winery for a very long time, as I have continuously been hearing good things about their wine. The building is very impressive and is the first eco-friendly winery in Ontario. As we entered the massive doors (must have been 20 feet tall) we were greeted by a young lady who would guide us through our tasting.  The cost of the tasting was $10 for 4 wines. I selected their Stratus White 2007 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer for most of it), the Stratus Red 2007 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Malbec blend), the Stratus Malbec 2008, and the Stratus Cab Franc 2007.  Here is the low down of each wine.
Stratus White 2007 ($44)
-  Lush aromas of citrus fruit and wood. This was a full bodied white that would be wonderful with any lighter dishes as well as sipping on a nice summer’s day.  Not an everyday white, but a fabulous white to bring out to show off to guest or to be enjoyed with a love one. This is a very unique white blend.
Score 90
Stratus Red 2007 ($44)
- Dark garnet colour. Fragrant aromas of dark fruit (cherries) and cedar. A full bodied red that was beautiful on the palate. Taste of dark rich fruit with a lasting taste. A wonderful red! Our guide also asked me to compare this to the 2006 red. The difference is night and day. The 2006 was darker and had more earthy notes on the nose. Overall, I preferred the 07. This wine will age for 10 years plus!
Score 93
Stratus Malbec 2008 ($38)
- Looked forward to this wine as it was my first introduction to Canadian Malbec. This grape is getting some serious play all over the world. It is still being grown in France, is King in Argentina, and is now being used in Ontario, B.C., and California.
This wine had dark purple colour. On the nose it had raspberries, spice, and herbal.  On the palate it was full and had high acidity with taste of raspberries. I very intriguing North American Malbec. Worth a look.
Score 88
Stratus Cab Franc 2007 ($38)
- This was the sleeper of the tasting. I did not have high expectations for this wine. I thought it would be good to try and was I ever surprised. This wine was possibly the best wine I tried while at Stratus, especially for its price difference of the Stratus Red.
It was a dark garnet colour that had aroma notes of cassis, black berries, and herbal tones. It would be interesting to see this wine evolve when opening it fresh.  Medium bodied with light acidity. Very lovely on the palate. Give it a try and be pulled in by Ontario Cab Franc! Cellar worthy!
Score 94

After our tasting we went to Pillitteri Winery. A good winery to visit for good QPR wines (Quality/Price ratio). I wasn’t overly excited about the tasting here so I did not make any notes. We purchased a 2007 Cab Franc and a 2010 Pinot Grigio. Funny enough, the following week there was an article about one of the owners and how they are charged with tax fraud. Blaming it on gambling.

When then started to make our way back to Burlington. While driving on the QEW, we made a stop at Hidden Bench Winery in Beamsville. Another winery that I have been waiting to try. This winery specializes on Chardonnay, Rieslings, and Pinot Noir. While parking I could see that their fields had Dijon Pinot clones 777. Should be good!
Tastings cost $10 and you get to choose 3 wines. Like a lot of wineries, they allow you to try others as well if you are showing interest in their craft. I selected to try their 2009 Nuit Blanche White Meritage (Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon), 2008 Terroir Cache Red Meritage (Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Malbec), and lastly their 2009 Estate Pinot Noir. Nicole tried their Chardonnay, which were fabulous! We purchased their 2008 Chardonnay Tete de Cuvee for our cellar. Great Burgundy chardonnay being made here! A lot better then the heavy, creamy stuff that is being pumped out of California!
2009 Nuit Blance White Meritage ($40)
- This wine was bright straw-like in colour. It had aromas of peaches and citrus fruit. On the palate it was dominated by citrus fruit (lemon, grapefruit). A full bodied white. Not my cup of tea, but well made.
Score 84
2008 Terroir Cache Red Meritage ($35)
- Dark in colour. This wine had dark berry aroma. It was very smooth on the palate with berry flavours. Not overly impressed with this wine. I am usually impressed with meritage, but I was not crazy about this wine. Similar to the white, well made. Yet not something I would put into my cellar.
Score 85
2009 Estate Pinot Noir ($38)
- From tasting Hidden Benches Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it is clear that this is their bread and butter. Very impressed with these varieties. This wine showed where it is from. Good terrior. Light red colour. Beautiful aroma of cherries, floral notes, with some wood. This wine on the palate is true cool climate pinot. Great balance! Red fruit dance on the tongue, with earthy tones. Great finish! Bought a bottle for the cellar. Great to see Niagara Pinot Noirs are improving!
Score 93

This was a wonderful trip that I got to share with my new family. I was very impressed by Stratus and Hidden Bench. In the spring/summer I am looking forward to introducing these wineries to friends and family, as well as going to the following wineries that we could not attend (Lailey, Five Rows, Daniel Lenko).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Checking out the SAQ

This past weekend my wife and I took a trip up to Ottawa to visit friends and family. As well as to check out Winterlude festivities.
On our last day in the Nations Capital, I thought it would be fun to go over to Gatineau and go to an SAQ. I was interested to see what it's like and how it compares to Ontario's LCBO.

The SAQ that we went to was of decent size, similar to an average LCBO in Ontario. Their selection was very similar. They had their wines divided into regions (Bordeaux, Loire, Burgundy, Italy, etc). So it was easy to find wines to compare. Both stores had the big brand names, but they also had different selection. Example of this would be a good selection of Chinon (which I enjoy a lot while in the Loire this past summer). As well as having a wider selection of Burgundies, Spanish, and Oregon Pinot's.

The one big reason I wanted to go to the SAQ was for their selection of magnums. The LCBO only has 195 labels available (Magnums and above), while the SAQ carries 270 labels in magnum alone. So this was a good place to buy some large format wine!
In my new wine cellar I have magnum racking, but no magnums. So I felt this was a good place to start my collection. Hands down the SAQ have a better selection of magnums and other larger format bottles in a range of prices. The prices of the magnums at this store ranged from $45-130. I bought two:
- 2008 Penfolds Bin 389
- 2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico

Thought these two would be cellar worthy as I have done my research. I was also looking at the 2007 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Cuvee Exceptional Chateauneuf du- Pape for $96, as we really enjoyed visiting their winery while visiting the Rhone this past summer. I thought two magnums were enough.

Another differences in the two stores in price. Occasionally the LCBO has better pricing and visa versa. Examples:

Dominus 750ml
LCBO $144 (2008)
SAQ $113 (2007)
- I know that they are different vintages, but the 2007 was the better vintage, yet it is the less expensive of the two.

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008 750ml
LCBO $30
SAQ $28
- Two bucks saving isn't huge, but it doesn't hurt.

Beaulieu Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 750ml
LCBO $11
SAQ $15.25
- From what I have heard, LCBO has better pricing on everyday wines. Here is a clear example.

Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour 750ml
LCBO $90 (2007)
SAQ $99 (2006)
- Strange difference considering the pricing of the Dominus.

Do your research before you make the trip. Understand if it's worth the trip to an SAQ or should you just stay home. For me it was worth the trip, got the two magnums. Try it out for yourself. I will be going back the next time I am in the area.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Completed Wine Cellar

Finished product

So I was talking about this new wine cellar my wife and I built over the holidays. Here are some pictures of the finished product. It used to be a bathroom that we never used (there were 4 in our townhouse!)

Racking: Redrack (Holds about 240 bottles, currently holding 70) I have a ways to go to fill it!

Tasting table: Hand made pine table top with vanity

Enjoy the photos!

Desendientes De J. Palacios Petal0s (Bierzo, Spain)

When looking through the January 21, 2012 LCBO vintages release I came across a very intriguing wine. It was focused on lesser know grape variety's from around the world. This one was regarding the Mencia (pronouced men-THEE-ah). I was excited to try it because I like to try new things and it is not your run of the mill Spanish wine that you would run into at the LCBO.

Also the rating that it got from WS caught my eye as well. #26 on the WS Top 100 of 2011. Lets dive into the tasting notes.

Colour: Dark Garnet

Aroma: Not over powering, you really need to stick your nose in the glass to get a good understanding. Spice and dark fruit came to mind.

Taste: This wine was really well balanced. Spice notes reminded me of southern Rhone. I decanted the wine for 2hr. Medium bodied wine. Lovely tastes of black fruit and spice, with even acidity and tannins working well together. This wine works in harmony. A real enjoyment to taste. Alas I only bought one bottle and I can imagine that they are long gone, due to the WS hype of being in the top 100.

This wine is ready to drink now, but could improve with more aging (4 years)

Score: 92

A great example that their are other delicious varieties from Spain.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thirty Bench Red 2008

It's good to be back reviewing wine. It really increases your understanding for wine.

So after my wife and I completed our cellar I wanted to open a nice bottle to go with our roast. So I pulled out a 2008 Thirty Bench Red. Mainly because we have 3 bottles and also because it is drinking quite well now.

Our love for Thirty Bench started on our first wine trip to the Niagara region. It was our first stop and we had a fabulous time tasting. Also we bought a 2002 Benchmark (blend) for our 1 year anniversary (this was when we were dating, we are now happily married!). The Benchmark was great and their wines are great value for the craftsmanship. We always make a stop when were in the area.

On with the review!

Thirty Bench Red 2008

Decanted the wine for about one hour. First sniff brought dark fruit, such as dried blackberries and cranberries with a hint of ceder wood. It's aroma was not overly strong, but it did have typical Niagara smell to it.

This medium bodied wine was lovely to sniff. Merlot and Cab Fran are the strengths of this blend as it can be seen in the deep garnet colouring. It tasted great with our roast. This wine is well balanced, but it's fruit could be more of a team player. Tannins and acidity work well together. Not a heavy weight wine. Was ready to be consumed and will be looking forward to having the other 2 bottles.

2nd tasting: More fruit in the aroma. Included mild acidity with similar tannins.

If your ever in the Beamsville area, make a stop at Thirty Bench. They will be releasing their 2010 vintage by mid March. I will be interested to give them a try.

Score: 88

I'm Back!

Hey Everyone!

I am very disappointed in myself for not keeping up with my blog, but now it's a new year and I am going to make sure to keep this up to date!

Lots has happened over the last few months. I have had lots of wine and over the holidays and I have received many great wines as presents for Christmas and my Birthday.
Here is a list of wines that are now in my cellar (oh yeah. My wife and I built a new cellar! I'll get to that later)

Wines Received

  • Reininger Ash Hollow Syrah 2006

  • Gaja Dogromis Barolo 2005

  • Chateau de Beaucasatel Cotes du Rhone 2009

  • 2010 Bordeaux Futures Chateau Haut-Bergey (To be received 2013)

  • and many more (Check my cellar for updates)

Ah and we now have a wine cellar in our house. My wife and I took on the task. What a great way to encourage communication in our relationship! I will post pictures soon. Really happy with the outcome.

Get ready for some reviews. They will be coming