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: 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…)

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…)

Ripasso di… Niagara?

Well, it certainly isn’t the rolling hills, the gondolas in historic canals or the Renaissance castles, but it seems there is something in common between the Veneto region of northern Italy and the Niagara region of southern Ontario. That something is a process called appasimento, dating all the way back to Roman times. Used to create amarone and ripasso della Valpolicella, among other wines, it consists in drying grapes to concentrate sugars and flavors, and thus, to produce more potent wines.

An article in the March/April 2008 issue of Vines Magazine, (more…)

Tasting note: Hernder Estate Wines 2000 Riesling VQA, Niagara Peninsula

Last night, I subjected my dinner guests to an experiment. Nothing cruel, I assure you. On the contrary.

You see, I’ve been a fan of Hernder rieslings for many years, and five years ago, I decided to try something. Judging from the balance and ripeness I tasted, I figured that they could keep for several years. So after a visit to the Hernder cellar, I put a bottle of their 2000 riesling (the regular cuvée, not even the reserve) in the cellar, and decided to wait. Until last night.

Boy, was I ever happy to have bided my time. The nose showed a bit of petrol and citrus fruit, right on opening, but after a few minutes, it blossomed into rich aromas of beeswax and honey, pastry and flower petals. On tasting, a bit of residual sugar had matured into a (more…)

A biodynamic encouter

If you live somewhere around Toronto or Montreal, you’ll be glad to know that February will offer you a chance to meet dozens of biodynamic producers from all over the world, as they come to town for a big tasting featuring 120 wines or more. The vignerons are from the Renaissance des Appellations association, headed by Nicolas Joly of La Coulée de Serrant, in the Loire Region, one of the foremost advocates of biodynamic winemaking. Zind-Humbrecht and Domaine Cazes, Ostertag, Chapoutier, Alvaro Palacios, Alvaro Espinoza, the Fetzers and the Benzingers are also among the many notable names in the association.

The Toronto meeting is taking place on February 9, in the Distillery District (South of Front Street and East of Parliament Street, if I have my bearings correctly). Details can be found here, and tickets can be bought through here.

The Montreal event is taking place on February 11, at the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, and is organized by Slow Food Québec. Details can be found here.

Live elsewhere? Later in the year, Renaissance des Appellations will hold similar tastings in Verona, Sao Paulo, Stockholm and Dublin. If I could, I’d probably go to all of them. And if anybody goes, I’d love to get your impressions.