Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Moving on up!

Hey everyone!

You can now follow the Four Eyed Wine Guy through my new website!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Big Cali Pinot: Belle Glos Pinot Noir Clark&Telephone 2010

Burgundy lovers may want to stop reading. This Cali Pinot is the complete opposite of what can be found in the Cote-d'Or. It was tasty, but a little too big for my liking of Pinot Noirs.

Belle Glos Pinot Noir Clark & Telephone 2010 (Santa Maria Valley, California) 
Dark ruby in colour. Very expressive on the nose. Aromas of bright red cherries, raspberries, cinnamon, all spice, and licorice. On the palate, loads of red fruit and spice. Good length and acidity, but a bit alcoholic on the finish (14.3%). Full bodied Cali Pinot! Hold on for the ride! Warning: Not for Burgundy lovers. 
88 points

Syrah/Shiraz Wine Tasting Event

* If you would like me to run a structured wine tasting for you and your friends, leave me a message. (Golden Horseshoe, GTA, and Muskoka).

About a year ago I started my WSET level 2 course during the month of July. While attending this course, friends of my parents approached me and were interested in having me run a sit down wine tasting event at their house. I was really excited when they asked me and looked forward to booking a date. Due to busy schedules and conflicting dates, it took a while for us to solidify a date. Thankfully during the month of May we came to the conclusion that June 22, 2013 would work! Once we had the date set in stone, it was time to go to work!

In the past I have been to many structured wine tasting events. I knew what tools and knowledge is needed to run a fun and educational tasting. What I did not know was what theme to do? Or should I bother with a theme? Through much debate in my head I ended up choosing to do a tasting around Syrah/Shiraz from different places.

I felt very confident with this theme because two years ago I visited the Mecca of Syrah in Tain-l’Hermitage, in the Northern Rhone. As well, I drink this grape on a regular basis and understand the different expressions that can be shown. This thick sink, dark grape can be both elegant and powerful. In the past this grape has been know to be a bit over the top (Aussie Shiraz), but thankfully producers are starting to calm down that style and are emulate the Northern Rhone style.

My next step was to find the wines that I would want to showcase. A very enjoyable stage as I get great satisfaction in the “hunt”. I also needed to set a budget for each wine ($25-$30).This allowed me to specify my search even more. So, what to choose??? A Syrah from the N. Rhone is a given. Crozes-Hermitage or Saint Joseph would work under my budget. I also wanted to showcase a Shiraz from Barossa, but didn’t want to have a jammy, candy-land wine. Extensive research was needed in order to refine my search. The final 5 were as followed (Shown in order of tasting):

Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Grands Chemins 2010 (N.Rhone, France)
- Northern Rhone representation. ($31)

Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz/Viognier 2011 (Victoria, Australia)
- Showing how Syrah/Shiraz can be blended with white Rhone varietals. As well this wine shows how drastically different it can be from a Barossa Shiraz. ($25)

Cusumano Syrah 2012 (Sicily, Italy)
- This was the “value” pick of then bunch. I wanted to show that good, tasty wine can be found under the $15 range. People were pleasantly surprised with this wine. I cannot take full credit of finding this valued gem, as I constantly checked Steve Thurlow’s  Top 50 wine value picks. Which can be viewed here  ($11)

Reininger Syrah 2007 (Walla Walla, Washington)
- I really wanted to find an American Syrah. I was happy to have found this Washington state Syrah because I really enjoy wines from the Pacific North West. I was also considering a Niagara Syrah, but was not able to find one that would suffice. ($31)

Spinifex Bete Noir 2010 (Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia)
- This was the big Aussie that I was looking for. This was a very bold wine that was not too over the top. ($35)

Now that the wines were bought and put away in the cellar until show time, it was time to think about the finer details. Leading up to the tasting I made the decision to rent ISO tasting glasses for the event. I felt renting glasses would be an easier clean up. I would definitely rent again.

A couple days before the tasting I thought that it would be very educational and fun to have a platter of Syrah/Shiraz aromas/flavour profiles for the group to experience. The group really enjoyed honing their nose and palate. I had the following aroma/flavour profiles out for my group:

- Mixed Berries (Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries)
- Black Pepper
- Cloves
- Rosemary
- Tobacco (cigar)
- Bacon
- Orange zest
- Dark Chocolate

The group of ten had a wonderful time and learned a lot form this unknown grape. Many of them have had/herd of Shiraz, but a majority have never tasted Syrah before. Great questions were asked and I believe I changed some people’s views on this thick skinned grape. At the end I had the group rate their wines to see what the WOTN (Wine Of The Night) was. Their rankings and my own rankings/tasting notes can be found below.

Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Grands Chemins 2010
(N.Rhone, France)
A great old world Syrah. It's not going to please new world fans, but I really liked it. Dark colour. Aromas of black fruit, orange zest, olive, pepper, and leather. Very enjoyable mouthfeel. Dark fruit, pepper, and earth dominates the palate. Enjoyable now, but will reward 5-7 years in the cellar. My #1, Groups #4. 91 Points

Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz/Viognier 2011 (Victoria, Australia)
Lighter in colour than the rest of the Syrah/Shiraz tasted, due to cooler climate of Victoria. The 5% Viognier really helps the aromas (really nice floral). Other aromas of raspberries, blueberries, pepper, meat. Great mouth feel. Not a burly Shiraz. Dark fruit on the finish. A great summer time Shiraz. My #3, Groups #3. 
90 Points

Cusumano Syrah 2012 (Sicily, Italy)
Great value Syrah. Aromas of light red fruit, pepper, and orange zest. Nice palate of red fruit. Nothing amazing, but a good wine for the price ($11). Surprisingly, this was my mom’s favourite. She normally does not favour the value wines!  My #5, Groups #5.
86 Points

Reininger Syrah 2007 (Walla Walla, Washington)
A blend of 3 vineyards ( Ash Hollow, Pepper Bridge & Seven Hills). Dark purple in colour. This wine gave off aromas of blueberries, smoke, pomegranate, and pepper. Rich mouth feel. The dark fruit dominate the palate. Alcohol is prevalent on the finish, which was off putting. I found the single vineyard 2006 Ash Hollow Syrah more enjoyable. I tried this last fall. My #4, Groups #2. 88 Points

Spinifex Bete Noir 2010 (Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia)
Rich dark purple. Aromas of blueberries, pepper, and cloves. Very powerful on the palate. Dark fruit dominates the pepper and other secondary flavors. Great length. This is a new breed of refined Australian Shiraz. WOTN for the group. I am very happy with the progress happening with regards to Australian Shiraz. My #2, Groups #1. Very close between this and the Delas. 91 Points

I would like to thank Roland and Carol for allowing me to run this tasting. I had a blast and I hope to do it again soon!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Private Wine Stores: Ontario needs to wake up! (Vancouver Part I)

Last week I traveled to Vancouver with my wife to attend my sister-in-laws graduation from UBC. What a beautiful part of the country! Vancouver had such a different feeling than Toronto, people seem more relax and I hardly heard any car horns while staying in Kitsilano (a neighbourhood in Vancouver). I really enjoyed my time exploring Vancouver and getting a feel for the west coast.

While attending my sister-in-laws graduation on the spectacular UBC campus, I realized two things. 1) UBC knows how to graduate in style as the PAC gymnasium at the University of Waterloo does not have the grandeur of the Chan Centre at UBC. 2) I wished I went to UBC!

Chan Centre UBC

After the graduation we went out to an amazing dinner at Bishops (see Vancouver Part 2). After the meal I began to think about which private wine stores I would visit in the next few days. It would be a brand new experience!  

For those who are not aware, there are two sources in which you can buy wine in BC. You can either go to their government run store (BC Liquor) or buy from their many private stores. Sadly, Ontario does not have the option of private stores to purchase wine. We only have one choice, the LCBO! I was very interested to see how these private stores were run, the type of wines they offered, and the overall vibe of the private scene.

During my stay in Vancouver, I visited three private wine stores and was very impressed with the overall quality of the wine that they had and the friendly and knowledgeable staff. I really enjoyed viewing different wines that are not available back home in Ontario. Thanks to the great selection at Marquis, I decided to purchase a bottle of Domaine Tempier La Tourtine 2008 which is mainly Mourvedre, from the Bandol region. I’m really looking forward to opening that in the future! Wait, I’m getting off topic! Time to get back to talking about private wine stores…

I visited the following private stores in Vancouver:
- Marquis Wine
- Liberty Wine (Granville Island)
- Kitsilano Wine

Kitsilano Wine (Home of the DRC!)
I was very impressed, as each store had a great selection of wines at different price points. I was especially excited to be able to view several bottles of Domain de la RomanĂ©e Conti (DRC) and many First Growths up cloBurgundy at Marquis and many different labels and regions that are not represented in Ontario. I really enjoyed seeing the representation of the American Pacific Northwest (Washington & Oregon) at these stores. I’ve come to really enjoy wines from that region, but they are hard to acquire and I feel this is an area that is very limited at the LCBO.
se at Kitsilano Wine. Sadly these wines were in a glass case, so I was not able to touch greatness (Many of the DRC were in the $4,000 range!) I also enjoyed seeing the great selection of

My only complaint about these private stores is their pricing. More often than not, the prices at these private stores are a lot more expensive than LCBO prices. I’m not sure why this is the Vancouver as a whole is pretty pricey (gas is 1.40 a litre!). So maybe that is the reason…
case. The only answer I could think of is that
Marquis Wine
I was extremely impressed with the private wine stores in Vancouver. While walking down the aisle I kept on thinking to myself “this be nice to have in Ontario”. I would love to know my local wine store owner by name, to buy from someone who is passionate & educated, and to not have to deal with a government monopoly when it comes to wine. That would be amazing! I would love to see private stores open in Ontario, but I am not even sure if it will happen in my lifetime.

Kudos to B.C. and their private wine stores. Keep up the passion!

Liberty Wines Granville Island

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Red Wine Long Weekend: Washington State and a Value Primitivo

This past weekend I had two red wines that were worth reviewing. One is from Washington State, a region that is poorly represented in Ontario. The other was a killer QPR (Quality Price Ratio) Primitivo from Southern Italy.

Before the review, just a little rant on poor representation at the LCBO. Two American regions that are really unappreciated are the wines from the North West (Washington State & Oregon). These two regions are making some spectacular wines, yet we are unable to buy them. There are some world class Pinot Noir being made in Oregon, as well as Chardonnay and even Syrah is making a push. In Washington, many red varietals are thriving like Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc and Syrah. The wines from the Pacific North West are also well priced compared to the same varietal in California. I hope in the near future that I will see more wines from these two regions in the LCBO.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $19.95
- Dark ruby in colour. This Columbia Valley Cabernet had profound aromas of casiss, all spice, vanilla, and ripe dark fruit. Very oak dominate on the palate. Creamy texture and full body. Dark blackberries and plums try to escape, but oak dominates the finish. 87 Points

Oggi Primitivo 2011 $8.98
- My wife enjoys the Pinot Grigio and the price of this red is right for a summer time sipper! Primitivo is a close relative to Zinfandel, but this wine is more elegant and less jammy than it's California counterparts. Medium ruby in colour. A very inviting nose of red cherries, cedar, and raspberry. Great fruit on the palate with a pleasant and not "cheap" finish that you expect at this price point. Light and fresh with good tannin/acidity integration. Shows like a $15-18 wine. Great QPR for the summer. 88 Points 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Five Rows Craft Wine 2013 release

Last year in April, on a cold windy day I took my sister and mother wine tasting in NOTL. That day we discovered Five Rows in St. Davids. A lovely small production winery. Fast forward one year later, we made another trek to Five Rows. This time my wife came with us and it was just as cold!

I have come to really respect what Wes Lowrey and Five Rows is doing. When they started the winery back in 2001 they were focused on small production. Today their production may be a bit larger, but they are aware of not getting too big. As they feel that it will effect the quality of their wines.  

This trip to Five Rows was my first time to try their whites. Small production also means selling out quickly, so I was happy to see what the whites were like. Five Rows produces three white varietals, Sauvignon Blan, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. We also tried their three reds as well Pinot Noir, Shiraz (Shiraz clone, but more Syrah like in character), and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Here is the low down and tasting notes.

Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc 2012
- It was light straw in colour. This was by far the most aromatic white of the tasting. Aromas of peach, citrus, and an interesting flinty note. The citrus and stone fruit continued on the palate. Really nice acidity (something that I found in all of the whites). A great palate cleanser! Reminded me of a Sancerre or Touraine Sauv Blanc. 88 points

Five Rows Pinot Gris 2012
- Light straw in colour. Had to really get my nose in the glass to get at the aromatics. Pear, apples, and almond came through. Apple and melon strike the palate. Good acidity with good length. A clear favourite with the ladies. 87 points

Five Rows Riesling 2012
- Pale straw. Strong aromas of citrus peal (lemon & lime) and floral notes. The citrus wave continues on the palate with crisp acidity that makes you want to come back for more. The Riesling haters in the group enjoyed this wine! Riesling is certainly a strength in Niagara! 88 points

Five Rows Pinot Noir 2010
- Pale ruby in colour. Aromas of fresh red fruit, cranberry, and coffee. This was quite a young wine and was tight on the palate. Red fruit and cedar on the palate. Good acidity with strong tannin's  One of the better 2010 Niagara Pinot's that I have tasted. I tend to favour the 2009 style of Niagara Pinot over the recent 2010 releases. It will be interesting to taste this wine in a few years and see how it integrates. 90 points

Five Rows Shiraz 2010
- Deep ruby in colour. Dark fruity, pepper spice, and game notes dominate the palate. Very elegant and great balance to this wine. A well structured wine that will develop into an interesting red in the future. I am really liking the N.Rhone Syrah play that is starting to take place in Niagara. 91 points

Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
- Deep ruby in colour. Dark fruit, hint of green pepper and all spice. A constant theme of the reds was "tight". All wines could benefit from decanting or cellaring for a year or two. Strong & fresh acidity on this Cabernet. Good acidity is a great indicator of a cellar worthy wine. 89 points 

Yet another great tasting at Five Rows. I tried to find out if they will ever expand and make a Cab Franc, all I got was that they have thought of making one. I'll look forward to that! 

Keep up the good work Wes and Lowrey family.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2011

As the weather gets warmer, it spurs us to buy/drink more white wine. One of my go-to white wines of recent has been a very unusual grape varietal. When you think of summer whites you tend to think about fruity Sauvignon Blanc, crisp Riesling, or a full bodied Chardonnay. I enjoy all three of these varieties, but one grape that has had my attention of late is Viognier. This white grape is usually found in the South of France, but I am focusing my attention away from Viognier’s home and looking towards Chile.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2011

Price: $8.95 (on sale till the end of the month)

This Chilean white is pale straw in colour. A very aromatic white. Tropical and stone fruits dominate the nose (pineapple & peaches) with a hind of floral notes, which are typical of Viognier. The tropical and stone fruits continue on the palate with fresh acidity and great length. A very enjoyable summer white! 88 points

Thursday, May 2, 2013

1855 Bordeaux Classification: Still Meaningfull?

Our society is obsessed with ranking. We desire to know who or what is the best of the best. There are countless publications and websites that focus on figuring out what universities, cars, athletes, and in this case, what wine is in a class of its own.

I understand why we as a society rank everything, but is it always required. Also with regards to certain rankings, are they relevant today? A great example is the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. Is this 150 plus year old classification meaningful today? Is it an effective ranking of quality claret in the Medoc? The quick answer is no, but there is some merit to the Classification of 1855.

Link: Full 1855 Bordeaux Classification

The big question that we should be asking ourselves is why are we following a classification that was created in 1855? In 158 years, a lot has changed in the Medoc. Chateaus have gone under new ownership, chateaus have purchased bigger plots of vineyards, new chateaus have been established and new vineyard and winemaking techniques have been used. Another glaring issue to the 1855 rankings is that it did not include the communes of St. Emilion, Pomerol, or the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes.

The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux took place while Napoleon III was in power of France. They established the rankings by looking at which wines were the most expensive to buy (single bottle), which they felt meant higher quality. The classification of 1855 ranked all of the chateaus in the Medoc into five groups, or in the case of Bordeaux, five “growths”. In the end, four chateaus were awarded “First Growth”. These were the best chateaus in Bordeaux which included Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, and Chateau Haut Brion. A fifth was added in 1973, when Chateau Mouton Rothschild was given the honour after years of petitioning. This was the only change to ever happen to the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux. Over time, these five First Growths have show that they belong at the top. They continuously produce outstanding wines, even in poor vintages. These First Growths deserve to be the best, but should they have company?

Top wine critics from around the world have discovered that there are non First Growth chateaus producing exceptional wines. In many reviews of past vintages, critics have used the term “First Growth like” to describe that a chateaus quality rivals the likes of Mouton, Lafite, Haut Brion etc. Of recent years left bank chateaus like Pontet Canet, La Mission Haut Brion, Leoville Barton, and Ducru Beaucaillou have wowed critics and wine lovers with their “First Growth like” quality. This “First Growth like” quality is also found in the right bank with Vieux Chateau Certan, Figeac, and Trotanoy to name a few (could also include the likes of Cheval Blanc & Petrus, who are considered First Growths). Sadly, for these chateaus, the classification of 1855 remains the same. This is bad news for the chateaus, but great news for the consumer. Prices for these “First Growth like” wines remain lower than the four figure amount that First Growths demand.

Should Bordeaux abolish the Classification of 1855, re-classify themselves, and included the chateaus of St. Emilion and Pomerol? Maybe, but it will not happen anytime soon. Or at least I cannot foresee it happening due to one large factor, re-classification would create too much drama in Bordeaux. If re-classificatoin occurred, there is a good chance that there will be disappointed chateaus, like a 2nd Growth being bumped down. A prime example is the newly classification of St. Emilion that has recently been established. Two chateaus in this region were awarded to the top class of Premier Grand Cru Classes A and joined the likes of Cheval Blanc and Ausone (Chateau Pavie & Chateau Angelus), but there were many other chateaus that felt like their were snubbed and now have their lawyers fighting their cause. Drama central!

Is the Bordeaux Classification of 1855 relevant today? No, not really. In a perfect world, all chateaus would be equal and there would be no ranking. I cannot recall any other wine regions that have a ranking classification like Bordeaux. If anything, the Classification of 1855 creates great debate around Bordeaux lovers. So, is Montrose better than Lynch Bages? Lascombes better than Palmer? In the classification rankings they are, but in the end you should have the final say.

The 5 First Growths of Bordeaux

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cruising With Wine

My wife and I recently returned from a vacation in the Caribbean. We took a cruise with her parents and sister for a week (my first cruise). We booked our cruise through Royal Caribbean. The cruise began in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While on the cruise, we stopped at the following countries:

St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Castries (St. Lucia)
Pointe-Pitre (Guadeloupe)
St. John’s (Antigua)
St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Before we departed for our trip, I began to do some research about Royal Caribbean’s wine service/wine list. Through browsing countless websites I was able to find out that Royal Caribbean just added a new rule that allows patrons to bring two bottles of wine per Stateroom on board. In total I planed to bring six bottles in total, as my in-laws and sister-in-law would declare the other four bottles. I brought the following wines onboard:

Corte Riva Cab Franc 2006
Painted Rock Red Icon 2009
G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2007
Tarras The Canyon Pinot Noir 2008
Chanson Pere et Fils Savigny-les-Beaune Hauts Marconnets 1er
Maison Roche de Bellene Gevrey Chambertin VV 2009

* All wines showed well.

I was very happy that I could bring wine on board for dinner while on vacation. The Royal Caribbean wine list was not horrible. Actually their prices were very reasonable and less expensive than what restaurants would charge for wine. By bringing wine with me, I was able to save some money and drink wines that I knew I would enjoy!

The cruise was very enjoyable, but I did run into a few issues/problems regarding my wine and the service provided. My first problem occurred when my luggage arrived to my room. When I opened my luggage and took out my wine travel box (Styrofoam inserts that hold six bottles) I was surprise to find only two bottles in the box and a note. The note stated that Royal Caribbean was holding onto my other four bottles because I was only allowed to bring two bottles per Stateroom. My wine would thus be held hostage for the duration of the cruise. I found this to be very frustrating, especially since they damaged my wine box in the process of confiscating the four bottles of wine. Thankfully, Guest Relations were able to understand my explanation and by the end of the night I had the remaining four bottles returned to my room. A good way to end my first day!

My second problem/issue came while attending dinner on the first night. When we arrived to our table I saw their wine glasses. They reminded me of the wine glasses that you would find at an older Italian restaurant. I do not want to sound like a snob, but this is an issue that a lot of wine enthusiast run into while dinning at restaurants. I am a strong advocate that small glasses dampen the experience and overall enjoyment of the wine. I do understand why they use these glasses, as they are very durable and not as expensive as a Riedel or Schott Zwiesel. For the duration of the trip I was able to live with this minor issue. Another problem that I ran into regarding glassware was the main dinning room lack of decanters. I was able to get a decanter for our first night, but the next night the waiter told me that all their decanters were being used. To give you a better explanation, this cruise ship has a main dinning room as well as separate restaurants on board. These restaurants are not included in your trip package and cost an extra $25 to $35 per person. I guess the main dinning room guests are not as important as the ones who are paying on top of their trip package. Oh well….

The next problem that I ran into was that the temperature of the wine that we were having for dinner was a bit too high for my liking. Whites should be served at 8-11 degrees Celsius, while red should be served at 16-18 degrees Celsius. The warmth of the Caribbean was heating up my wine! To solve this problem I would order an ice bucket (with ice) to our room and chill the reds. I did this an hour before dinner. This seemed to solve the problem. By the time our main course was served, our wine was at an ideal temperature. I did chill the lone white Burgundy for a longer time while in our room and also put it on ice while sitting down to dinner. It was a very enjoyable Chardonnay.

With all of these problems occurring, there was one positive outcome. During the six nights that I brought wine to dinner, I was only charged for corkage ($25) once! I am not sure why I was able to get away with this. Maybe our waiters forgot to charge me. All I know is that I saved a total of $125 and I am not complaining!

Overall I had a great time while on this trip. I got to experience what life is like on a cruise ship, meet a lot of great people, and visit some really nice countries. If given the opportunity again I would jump at the chance to go on another cruise. I would also not hesitate to bring wine with me!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

M. Chapoutier Brings Elegance to Aussie Shiraz

The country of Australia is known for a lot of things throughout the world. When thinking of the "Land Down Under" you may think of Kangaroos, Koalas, cool Aussie accents, and BIG Shiraz's! Over the past decade, Australian Shiraz has been known for its big candy fruit and high alcohol levels. This style of wine began to gain popularity with the Yellow Tail crazes, which then led many more producers trying to emulate that big style and to push the envelope further. This type of Shiraz has came under a lot of scrutiny, as people feel that Australia should focus on making more elegant Shiraz, similar to the Northern Rhone. Thankfully, Australian wine producers are starting to create great wines that emulate the Syrah from the Northern Rhone, yet obtains it's own identity in the process.

This style of elegant Australian Shiraz's usually comes from producers who have a French winemaking background. A prime example of this is the great Michel Chapoutier. Since the 1980's, Michel has been a driving force in quality and introduced biodynamic to his families winery. In 1997, Michel expanded into Australia and began to partner with local producers and a American wine importer (Terlato). He also bought land in the Victorian Pyrenees under his own label, Domaine Tournon. Here are my thoughts on his Shay's Flat label:

M. Chapoutier Shiraz Domaine Tournon Shay's Flat  Vineyard 2010
This is not your typical Aussie Shiraz! This wine was extremely dark in colour, as the cork end was pitch black! When I opened the bottle the aromas reminded me more of a Northern Rhone St. Joseph than your typical Barossa Shiraz. This wine gave aromas of black fruit (blueberries and blackberries), cinnamon spice and gamey notes. On the palate this wine had great structure and balance. Flavours of dark fruit and white pepper were dominate on the palate. This wine had great length. I really appreciate a wine that evolves throughout the night, as this wine did. This wine has a more "modern style" which gives you a sense of place. A great value at $30, but sadly a majority of the bottles are gone in Ontario. Luckily I have a few in the cellar. A solid and enjoyable Australian Shiraz! 92 Points 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lailey Vineyards Big Pinot Tasting

Lailey Vineyard Big Pinot Tasting 2013
(From Left to Right: 2010 Pinots, 2011 Pinots, and 2012 Pinots)
This would be my second time attending this sit down Pinot tasting. The last tasting I attended we compared Lailey's 2009 Pinot Noirs to their 2010's. This years format was a bit different, as their 2011 Pinots were not up to their liking. To fix this they blended three vineyards into one and called it 3.7 (3 Vineyards and 7 barrels). Lailey Vineyard winemaker Derek Barnett came up with a great wine line-up for this tasting. We started with two of their 2011 Chardonnays and then moved onto their Pinots. Over the course of the tasting, Derek discussed many different topics. From the issue of colour (or lack their of in Lailey Pinot's) to the challenges that each vintage gave during the growing season. The wines were paired with delicious food pairings by Chef Ryan Crawford. Here is the wine breakdown by flight.

Flight 1: Chardonnay
Lailey Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay Brickyard: $30
- Golden straw in colour. Aromas of citrus fruit, apple, and minerality. Citrus fruit on the palate with great mouth feel. I really enjoy this form of chardonnay, not too much oak. It ended with great acidity and a touch of apple spice. Great length. 91 Points

Lailey Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay Canadian Oak: $25
- Golden straw in colour. Aromas of coconut, tropical citrus fruit and a bit buttery. Very interesting to see the effect Canadian Oak has on chardonnay. This wine had a heavier mouth feel and continued with tropical fruit. A bit of spice on the end with low acidity. Length seemed to flatten out and fade. Surprisingly this was the favourite of the group, but not for me. 87 Points

Flight 2: 2010 Pinot Noir
Lailey Vineyard 2010 Pinot Noir Canadian Oak: Sold Out
- This is my second time tasting Lailey's 2010 Pinots. Pale ruby colour. Aromas of sour cherries, spice, and cedar. On the palate the sour cherries continued with strong acidity with decent length. I felt that the 2010's were one dimensional, as their were fruit in your mouth with little complexity. This may be due to the warm vintage. Enjoyable, but nothing to make you stop and think. 87 Points

Lailey Vineyard 2010 Pinot Noir Brickyard: $35
- Pale ruby in colour. This 2010 had a little less sour cherry on the nose and was accompanied by strawberries and minerality. The red fruit continued on the palate, along with spice. A very light and fresh wine. A winner with the group. It still had the big fruit, but was a bit more interesting on the finish. 88 Points

Flight 3: 2011 Pinot Noir
Lailey Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir Niagara Peninsula: $25
- The fruit for this wine is sourced from different vineyards in the Niagara Peninsula. This is their entry level Pinot Noir. There were only two Pinot Noir labels made in 2011, the Niagara Peninsula and the 3.7. Pale ruby in colour. Aromas of cherries, cedar box, and spice. Good red fruit and acidity on the palate. A bit more complex due to the cooler growing season. 89 Points

Lailey Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir 3.7: $25
- Like I stated before at the beginning. The 3.7 label was created because Derek felt that blending three of their vineyards would be the best path to take in 2011. This was very creative problem solving on Derek's behalf, and it turned out to be a very enjoyable wine. Pale ruby in colour. More appealing nose of light red fruit and minerality. It had a good creamy mouth feel and great acidity. I bought a bottle for the cellar to see where it will go. The better 2011 of the two Pinots. 90 Points

Flight 4: 2012 Pinot Noir
* Here is a quick rundown of the 2012 growing season. Derek stated that it was the easiest growing season he has ever had. The weather was near perfect throughout the year and made some wines that I am looking forward to trying again in the fall. My scores for these two wines may change as they unfold.

Lailey Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir Wismer (Lot 48)
- The Colour in these wines were the complete opposite of the 2010's & 2011's, as both 2012 were dark ruby in colour. Aromas of cedar, sweet red fruit. Great red fruit on the palate and outrageous drying tannins and strong acidity. A more delicate wine between the two. I have never tasted a Pinot Noir like this in Niagara. It will be very interesting to see where this wine ends up. A favourite of my wife and I. 92 Points now......

Lailey Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir Old Vines
- Dark ruby in colour. It had a similar nose of cedar and red fruit, but was a bit lighter on the nose. On the palate the red fruit was very faint. The fruit was being overthrown by the huge, bully tannins. Nice acidity to back up those muscular tannins. This wine made my mouth feel like it just went ten rounds with Mike Tyson, a very strong pinot. Very unique to Niagara. I am very eager to see how these two turn out. 91 Points now.....

Lailey Vineyard 2009 Brickyard Pinot Noir

(Surprise) Flight 5: 2009 Pinot Noir
Lailey Vineyard 2009 Brickyard Pinot Noir: $35
- Since Derek started talking about colour in their Pinots, he decided to open a bottle of their 2009 Brickyard Pinot Noir, a real treat! 2009 was a wonderful year for pinot noir in Niagara and a favourite vintage to look for when shopping or out at a restaurant. These wines are drinking well right now and could live on for another three to four years. This wine was wonderful. It's colour was a lovely meadium ruby. It had a complex nose of strawberry, cranberry, cedar box, and minerality. The red fruit continued in the mouth. This Pinot had great mouth feel and was long lasting. A wine that you would want to savour slowly to take in it's beauty. 93 Points

Bravo to Lailey and their team.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gamay: The Most Underappreciated Red Grape

Ask yourself this... When was the last time you had a wine made from the Gamay grape? If you cannot remember the last time or if you do not even know what regions produce Gamay, your not alone. I tend to think that in the grand scheme of red wine hierarchy, Gamay would be at the bottom. Looking up, Gamay would be seeing the likes of King Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, and its close neighbour and distant relative Pinot Noir, among others. My goal is to open a few eyes and maybe your heart to the Gamay grape. It will surprise you, as it has surprised myself with it's depth, flavours, and it's great ability to be paired with an assortment of food!

Gamay is grown in many locations around the world. It can be found in Ontario, Oregon, Switzerland, but the most well know region for Gamay is the Beaujolais region in France (Just south of Burgundy). Beaujolais is considered the "Mecca" of Gamay. You can find some stellar wines from this region at your local wine shop or liquor store. These wines will not say Gamay on the bottle, but will be labeled either as Beaujolais (Meaning the grapes can be blended from many different sites), Beaujolais Village (Coming from one of the 39 villages), or with the region that it comes from (The Cru). When shopping for Beaujolais look for a Cru Beaujolais, as these will offer the best complexity, flavour and overall bang for your buck ($15-$25)!

                                              The 10 Cru Beaujolais Sites (Listed from lightest body to fullest)
1. Brouilly
2. Regnie                        ** Can be aged up to 3 years
3. Chiroubles

4. Cote de Brouilly
5. Fleurie                       ** Can be aged up to 4 years and could use a year of bottle age
6. Saint Amour

7. Chenas
8. Julienas                     ** Can be aged up to 10 years. Serious Cru Beaujolais!
9. Morgon
10. Moulin-a-Vent

Sadly, not a lot of people know of Cru Beaujolais. When they think of Beaujolais they only know of Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine that is picked, crush, bottled and ready to be sold in stores on the 3rd week of November of that year. This form of Beaujolais is a great business plan, as it gets the product from the farm to the store quickly and creates cash flow. These wines are normally full of fruit and lack complexity. Overall, Beaujolais Nouveau has given Gamay a bad reputation in the wine world. 

More often then not, I am overwhelmingly surprised when I open a bottle of Cru Beaujolais or a Gamay Noir. These wines have great fruit, acidity & tannin structure, and a lasting finish. They can be paired with light and heavy dishes and are a staple for Thanksgiving dinners. So next time your in a wine store, pick up a Cru Beaujolais and experience Gamay at it's finest.

Like I said earlier, Gamay is grown in many different regions around the world. The Niagara region is one that is starting to produce quality Gamay Noir. This past weekend I visited two wineries who produce Gamay Noir, Tawse and 13th Street Winery. They were both extremely refreshing and gave me great enjoyment. Here are my notes on 13th Street's Gamay Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2009 that I had with roasted chicken.

13th Street Gamy Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2009

Great light ruby colour. If you have pinot glasses (big bowl wine glasses) do yourself a favour and use them with Gamay!

Aromas: Very complex nose of rose petals, strawberries, sour cherries, and minerality (sand no less). An evolving nose, changing over time.

Palate: A mix of red fruit, strawberries, raspberries. This wine had bright/strong acidity that was very enjoyable and went really well with the chicken. Later on I began to pick up a milk chocholate on the back end of this Gamay. A very enjoyable wine! 91 Points

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ruffino Modus 2006 & 2008

This past Family Day was spent at my parents house. My sister, wife, and I came down to visit and to have dinner with them. For this dinner I felt that it would be interesting to compare some wines and educate my family.The two wines that we had were the 2006 & 2008 Ruffino Modus (I had the 2006 while my dad had the newer released 2008). In this tasting I was looking to show my family the difference between the two wines (vintage to vintage) and how much a wine can change from being older.

Ruffino is mostly know for their Chianti production (Ducale line). Modus is their Super Tuscan blend (IGT), which is very similar to the blends made in Bordeaux, except in Italy they tend to use Sangiovese in the blend. Modus consist of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot. Sadly this mini vertical (if two wines can be called that?) tasting did not include the highly regarded 2007 Modus (Wine Spectator 96 points). Both wines were decanted before dinner for 2 hours and enjoyed over a dinner of Beef Tenderlion, Yorkshire Pudding, Corn, and Mash Potatoes. It is always a good meal at my parents house!

Wine Tasting Notes
* A very unique difference between the two wines was that the 2008 was lighter in colour than the 2006.

Modus 2006
Aromas of sour cherries and tobacco leaf and a sense of earthiness. On that palate, cherries and other red fruit, minimal spice. Good length and great balance of acidity and tannins. This wine is in a good place right now for drinking. 89 points

Modus 2008
Aromas of sour cherries, cedar box, and it had a bit of a barney funk that blew off during dinner. On the palate, strong bright fruit, cherries, and vanilla. This wine was a lot more powerful and still in an adolescence phase. This wine could use a few more years to mellow out. 87 points

I was very glad at how well this experiment went. It was clear to everyone at the table that the 2006 was more enjoyable due to its softer tannins. Both of these wines went well with the beef and could also do well with any red sauce Italian dishes.

Sadly, the star of the night was neither the 2006 or the 2008 Modus. My dad opened a 2007 Fattoria Le Puppille Morellino Scansano Riserva Poggio Valente the night before and still had some left (no notes taken). This wine was awesome! I was loving the aromas coming off of this wine, as I think I had my nose stuck in the glass for well over a minute. Great wine, and even better knowing that I have one in my cellar! Thanks dad!