Tasting Note: Undercurrent Muscat-Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and other crazy wines from Creekside Estate Winery

Creekside is one interesting winery. They can make some very straightforward, accessible wines with a great quality-price ratio, as shown not only by their Estate series of wines (like that nice, pepper-strawberry driven shiraz), but also by the 60,000 some odd cases the same winemaking team makes for No. 99 Estates Winery, generally known as the Wayne Gretzky wines. Good stuff all around, star power or not on the label.

They can also make some serious, original reserve wines that are very often quite out of the ordinary. When I visited last summer with assistant winemaker Erin Harvey, I had the chance to taste a number of solid bottlings, including a delicious Close Plant riesling from the Butler’s Grant vineyard that I reviewed in a previous post. I was impressed by a 2007 Reserve Pinot Gris aged in French oak barrels, that was pretty wild and intense, with great spicy character and some wild aromas of prosciutto and cantaloup, and a long finish structured by a touch of bitterness.

I was also taken aback by the 2004 Lost Barrel, a mix of red grapes (“a bit of everything”, said Erin) made from the “tippings” (the dark, rich, sediment-laden stuff left at the bottom of barrels of red after they are racked) of top reds that are collected into a single barrel. After five years settling in oak, the wine showed up as a big, chunky, bloody, spicy, meaty, wild, wild thing with big whacks of fruit and intense flavors coming at you intensely. So much stuff that a slight whiff of volatile acidity felt refreshing, in all that unusual mass of vinous stuff.

Making a cuvée from the tippings is basically a crazy idea. But what’s beautiful about Creekside is that this crazy spirit leads to some of the most successful wines they make. (The spirit also permeates the way the cellar is organized: tanks are named after scientists, philosophers, filmmakers or… The Beatles. That last row of four tanks recently got a fifth one added, quickly named Yoko, as it was a late addition and proved to be a bit of a troublemaker. More on the workflow in this Creekside blog post.).

That’s where the Undercurrent series comes in – the place where Creekside winemakers really have the most of their winegeek fun. You want an almost-late-harvest sauvignon blanc? Why not. A once-in-a-lifetime cofermented blend of muscat and sauvignon blanc? You got it.

When I drove back to the Niagara, a couple of weeks ago, and stopped by to get a couple of bottles of the close-plant riesling, I also got myself a 500 ml bottle of this very unusual blend of varieties. We opened it this week, as a match to an oven-grilled halibut with herbs and olive oil, and a sort of corn-basil-sweet pepper salsa. Boy did that work well, as the mix between the freshness and slight grassiness of the sauvignon blanc and the highly aromatic, stonefruit-driven aromas and flavors of the muscat playfully blended with the sweetness of the corn or cut through the rich fish. One day after opening, the wine tasted even better, with a well-rounded feel and a touch of honey added to the mix.

The completely unusual aromatic profile explains why the label bears the words “Product of Canada” (showing it’s made from 100% Canadian grapes), rather than the usual VQA. The singular profile threw the VQA tasting panels for a spin, and since typicity is one of the factors that qualify a wine for the official appellation, the Muscat-Sauvignon Blanc got stock on its edge. It’s the VQA’s loss, really.

If you want to taste it, you’ll have to make your way to the winery. And do it soon, because that exact blend won’t be coming back. There is a 2008 blend of muscat, sauvignon blanc and gewurztraminer from 2008 on the way, but the addition of gewurz takes the whole thing in a very different direction. Another unique bottling – just like that 2007 sangiovese that my little finger tells me is also in the works…

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Ontario’s best rieslings: a collective tasting on Spotlight Toronto (and two extra tasting notes)

It’s nice when social media pushes the idea of social forward, encouraging collective thinking and group efforts. Like this Ontario riesling project that was proposed to a small group of wine writers and professionals by Rick Van Sickle, of the St Catharines Standard, and Suresh Doss, of Spotlight Toronto.

Six writers, including this guy who does The Wine Case blog, were included in the informal panel and submitted a series of wines. It was noticed, among the reviews submitted, that Cave Spring and Thirty Bench came up quite often in everyone’s lists. Discussions ensued about how to process and package the whole thing, various opinions were expressed, and finally selections were made and posted here. It’s quite a nice list, with a nice price range, starting at as little as 12$. (Why anyone would rather drink Cellared in Canada when good VQA wines are available at such reasonable prices is beyond me.)

I had two more choices in my list which weren’t included in the already long list provided on Spotlight Toronto. Wouldn’t want them to go to waste, so here they are, exclusive to The Wine Case.

Creekside Wines Close-Plant Reserve Riesling VQA Twenty Mile Bench
The folks at Creekside are at their most interesting when they get experimental – as they do with their whole Undercurrents series. This could be an undercurrent, but its steady quality, over the years, has made it a regular part of the Reserve series. Drawn from a closely-planted section of a particular vineyard (Butler’s Grant) dating back to the 80s – an experiment gone absolutely right – the wine has remarkable personality and originality. Part of the wine is aged in oak, but you don’t sense it much, as you concentrate on the clover, pear, quince and ginger ale – yes, ginger ale – that just jumps from the glass.

Hidden Bench Felseck Riesling
Owner Harold Thiele and winemaker Jean-Martin Bouchard may be focusing on Burgundy varieties, but that doesn’t mean they take other grapes for granted. Their rieslings tend to have a steely, clean feel to them, with a good mineral backbone, to which the Felseck vineyard, located just east of the winery buildings, seems to add an extra depth, along with hints of flint stone and, in the 2007 vintage, lovely flavors of pear and caramelized apples. Nice to hear they’re planting more.

Now, I’m going back to Niagara on Tuesday, and should be tasting more rieslings from Fielding and Flat Rock. And hopefully dropping by Creekside to pick up a bottle of that Close Plant. Work, work, work…

Tasting Note: 2008 Txomin Etxaniz Getaria Txakolina

This review – and all the new content on The Wine Case – is now at a new address, winecase.ca. Click here to read the review.

Tasting notes: Le Clos Jordanne, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard 2006 chardonnay and pinot noir, Twenty Mile Bench

I’ve been a fan of Le Clos Jordanne wines since their first release, the 2004 vintage, two years ago. Made from young vines, they may not have had the depth of great wines, but they certainly showed the promise. It was terrific to taste pinot noir that from the Niagara that had such a clear sense of place and such a remarkable balance and restraint.

This certainly has a lot to do with…

To read the rest of this review, go to winecase.ca, the new home for The Wine Case blog. New updates are now all on winecase.ca.

Pinot chocolat? Won’t those New Zealanders stop at anything?

For a guy like me who loves the most natural wines, New Zealand is often a disappointment, with wines that are pure products of modern oenology.

But I never thought the doctoring would go as far as this: Kim Crawford’s Pinot Chocolat, for which cocoa bean extract was added to the tank at the moment of fermentation. That, for me, completely takes the cake. I mean, what is wine coming to?

The only thing I don’t get about this whole operation, is why Kim Crawford didn’t think of using the USBWine network to allow us to taste the Pinot Chocolat. Instead, they’ve used a virtual tasting system that is clearly not as effective. 

The pinot chocolat, released on April 1, is a great match for a traditional English dessert called a… fool.

If you find a bottle, let me know.

And in the meantime, if you’d like a wine that’s less of a joke, why not try the 2007 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay, a modern wine, yes, but one where citrus flavors, peach notes and a little caramel on the nose combine in a fresh, quaffable drink. A very decent bottle, and a good match with grilled fish or hard cheeses. 

Full disclosure: I received the chardonnay as a press sample. But not the pinot chocolat.

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…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South – a bipolar roundup

It’s always fascinating to see the many ways people can interpret a proposition. So what did the participants in the 55th Wine Blogging Wednesday make of this idea of confronting North vs South?

From Michigan Riesling to Tasmania Pinot Noir, from Spanish Garnacha to Tennessee Chambourcin, there sure were a lot of possible pairings (and threesomes, and foursomes) put together by the 33 participants who took up the challenge. Three of those, I’m happy to say, were first timers in the world of Wine Blogging Wednesday (this one, this one and this one), showing how the concept is still going strong and breaking new ground. (more…)

In the California Vineyards: A quick stop at Alpha Omega

I’m finally getting around to blogging about the wineries I visited in California, last fall, after the Wine Bloggers Conference. Maybe I needed to let all that wine tasting and winery visiting steep for a while. Or maybe I just got very busy when I returned from California and never got around to it. Or maybe I’m just a procrastinator, I don’t know.

Anyway, the first winery I’ll tell you about is one I hadn’t originally plan to visit, but am glad I did after all: Alpha Omega. If I went, I have to say that it’s not because of the… ahem… modest name or because Michel Rolland is a consulting winemaker there.

I’d heard about Alpha Omega because (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday 53: Would you like some Slovenian chardonnay with your breakfast?

You know, it isn’t just by chance that Jeff Stai, from the Twisted Oak Winery, wound up with the Twitter nickname Eljefetwisted. I mean, a man that calls his wines Pig Stai, Potty Mouth or River of Skulls is obviously not walking on the straight and narrow – and thank God, because his wines are all the better for it. (I tried them at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference – including The Spaniard, at the live blogging event – and thought they were really terrific).

Also, his Wine Blogging Wednesday themes are all the more… twisted for it. Which is how all the bloggers who gleefully joined in for WBW 53 are all writing about which wines you should have with breakfast. Or more precisely, with breakfast foods, no matter what the time of the day you want to have them. (Of course, having breakfast foods at night would be a little twisted, don’t you think?)

So, to start off, (more…)

Tasting Note: Capitel Croce 2002, Veneto IGT, Anselmi

Roberto Anselmi is one of the great prides of the Veneto region, and especially, of the Soave appellation. So much so that he left the appellattion.

Indeed, Anselmi thought that the authorities were not hard enough on Soave producers, when it came to ensuring quality. So instead of being associated with a level of wines he thought unsatisfactory, he moved away from the DOC and turned his wines, made from 100% garganega, into Veneto IGTs (Indicazione Geografica Tipica, a paradoxically less demanding level of appellation).

The wines remain as good, if not better, as demonstrated by the 2002 Capitel Croce, a single-vineyard wine aged in oak, that felt clearly at its peak. With its golden color, still showing a slightly greenish hue, it showed intense aromas and matching flavors of hay, honey, lime and toasted bread. Quite a mouthful, it still displayed good acidity, creating an interesting balance between a refreshing side and a full-bodied, silky texture, feeling a little waxy on the tongue. Very yummy.

This mix of fullness and acidity make it a good match for grilled salmon, with the acidity cutting through the fat and the richness wrapping around it in a lovely way.

Sold between 20 and 25$, it’s a great quality price ratio, good to drink from its release (the 2005 is currently on sale) and over several years of cellaring.

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 11:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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