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!