Tasting Note: Two viogniers from the North

If you’ve had wines made from the viognier grape, there is a very good chance that they came from warm, if not hot climates, and exploded with aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, over a rich, luscious mouthfeel. Acidity, crispness, freshness? Not so much.

Yet there is another way to make viognier. A more northerly way, like the direction pointed to by Peay Vineyards, one of my favorite vineyards, who make a tiny bit of it in their cool Sonoma Coast vineyards. Syrah is picked as late as the last week of October, at the Peay vineyards, and without the high sugar and high alcohol that you normally see in California syrah.

What would be the perfect place to test the possibilities of cool-climate viognier? Canada, I would say.

Case in point, (more…)

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Tasting Note: See Ya Later Ranch Ping 2006, Okanagan Valley VQA

Fruit, fruit, fruit, and also a bit more fruit. That was certainly my first impression of this Bordeaux blend made by See Ya Later Ranch, a Vincor-owned estate located about mid-way between Lake Okanagan and Lake Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley. Named after the estate’s historical owner’s way of signing off letters, the ranch was originally planted with grapes some 60 years ago, although its current vineyards and estate were established in 1995 by Harry McWatters, a virtual legend of BC’s wine industry.

There was all kinds of fruit in there, from strawberry jam to raspberries, cherries and blackberries, all very attractive. With 57% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc, this particular blend certainly had the means to be fruit-forward, although as it opened up, it did show more spice and vanilla (from 18 months in oak, no doubt), and eventually coffee notes, with a fair amount of tannins on the finish.

The alcohol level, however, (more…)

Tasting Note: Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Sumac Ridge

I’m getting a kind of crash course refresher on Canadian wine these days. I’m working on a story for En Route magazine that will try to give a sense of just how diverse Canadian wine has grown in recent years, as new wineries constantly come online and previously little-known regions come to the fore.  Great fun, as I touch on wines from Coast to Coast, from the sparklers of Nova Scotia to the reds of British Columbia.

Along the way, one of the people I got to talk to is Leanne Clemens Froese, from Coletta&  Associates, who does PR for Vincor out of Vancouver. Along with samples of one of the vineyards featured in the piece, she also sent other “goodies” my way. Clever girl.

I have to say I’m very grateful (more…)

Tasting Note: 2006 St Davids Bench Vineyard Gewürztraminer, Château des Charmes

A founder of modern Niagara viticulture, Château des Charmes has long been one of my favorite wineries from Ontario. This solid and constant estate was founded in 1978 by Paul Bosc, a fifth-generation French vigneron whose family had come from Alsace through Algeria before being seduced by the Niagara’s winegrowing potential. It became an early standard-bearer of the movement towards vitis vinifera and the development of quality wines from the area. With Inniskillin and Cave Spring, the Bosc family was one of the very first to obtain a licence to produce and sell wines in Ontario in the post-Prohibition era.

Among the various lines of wines produced at Château des Charmes, my favorite has always been (more…)

Regional Wine Week: Quebec wine, now ready to drink

In the same that California is no longer exclusively synonymous with wine in the United States, Niagara is no longer the only game in town for Canadian wine. Not that either place is losing its importance. Rather, it’s the growth of viticulture all over North America that is truly remarkable. After all, if Poland can get into the winemaking game, why not Poland, ME – or for that matter, why not Quebec?

That’s what the Regional Wine Week, the kickoff to the Regional Wine Writing Project, brainchild of Dave McIntyre and Jeff Siegel, is all about: getting the word out about all the great wine being produced in lesser-known areas of our continent. A web site, DrinkLocalWine.com, has been set up, and connects you to close to thirty wine writers, bloggers and/or journalists who have come on board.

I found out about the initiative on (more…)

Tasting Note: Creekside Estate Winery 2006 VQA Cabernet, Niagara Peninsula

On my short vacation on Manitoulin Island, last August, I took a minute to stop by the Gore Bay branch of the LCBO to grab some wine (and a bit of cider), and chanced upon a bottle of 2006 VQA Cabernet by Creekside Winery, which I’d heard much good about in the last few months.

Among other things, Creekside scored high in the most recent Canadian Wine Awards and was a finalist for Winery of the Year.

Of course, to get a full sense of what the winery is about, (more…)

Canadian wines for all occasions

I was invited for a second time by CJAD host Sharman Yarnell to do a wine-related bit on her Saturday-morging show called Showtime. And since our little chat was to air soon after Canada Day (and Quebec City’s 400th anniversary, by the way), she thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the state of Canadian wines today – and also, at the state of Canadian wine availability in Quebec.

One great question she asked me was if Canadian wines can provide all the styles of wines you would want. I said yes, and after thinking about it, after taping the interview a few days ago, I’m even more convinced.

One of the wines I mentioned from the outset was Osoyoos Larose’s Le Grand Vin, a solid Bordeaux-style blend (merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot) produced in the Okanagan Valley, whose 2004 vintage sells for just above 40 dollars at SAQ. It’s a great example (more…)

A look at the 2008 Canadian Wine Annual (the good and the bad)

A few days ago, I grabbed a copy of Wine Access magazine’s Canadian Wine Annual for 2008 at my neighborhood news stand. It is a great reference about all that is wine (and fruit wine, and cider, etc.) in Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, and everywhere in between. Some 393 wineries are listed, with coordinates and a short but often very precise and useful description. Really cool and useful stuff, by qualified contributors, including articles on green initiatives in Canadian vineyards and on wine tasting and wine-food matching.

You also get the full listing of results from the 2007 Canadian Wine Awards, a competition chaired by Anthony Gismondi with, I must say, admirable restraint. Gold medals (more…)

Confusion in the Cellar(ed in Canada)

The Cellared in Canada wine category, as I’ve written previously on this blog, is a marketing category whose first aim, it seems, is to create confusion with actual wines from Canada, since in fact, it can contain practically no Canadian wine, as opposed to the 100% homegrown VQA wines. Which doesn’t stop the LCBO from selling them side-by-side and mixed together on the shelves.

Apparently, the category has reached its goal perfectly. Now, even the LCBO is confused.

As an article in the St. Catharines Standard stated, last week, (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday (Thursday?) #44: Chinon Thélème 2003, Alain Lorieux

So here I am, this morning, recovering from my shift at the paper last night, deciding to hop on the Wine Blogging Wednesday bandwagon, for edition number 44, and I check out when in April it’s going to take place, and when I look at Gary Vay-Ner-Chuck’s Wine Library to get details, I find out that it’s supposed to be done on April 2nd. Oh Great. I’m late and I haven’t even started.

But hey, the theme was irresistible: French cabernet franc, which I’ve always loved. So I just flew to my neighborhood SAQ store and immediately looked for (more…)