Harvesting in Prince Edward County, just in time for new rules on Ontario wines

I’d call that an auspicious sign. Just as I was heading to the vineyards of Prince Edward County to harvest chardonnay at Closson Chase, on Tuesday evening, the Ontario government came out with new rules governing VQA and Cellared in Canada wines.

These new rules give a push forward to VQA wines by introducing financial support – with revenue generated from a new tax on Cellared in Canada wines. They also increase the amount of Canadian wine that will have to go in the CiC bottlings, from 30% to 40%, before cancelling the content requirements by 2014. In the meantime, the grape pricing and marketing mechanisms will be reviewed, all in the hopes that by then, growers will be turning more and more towards producing grapes for VQA wines, with different varieties and better quality.

Although it will have to be seen how all this plays out over the next five years, it is a move in the right direction, and a clear signal to everyone that the future of the industry is in VQA, 100% Ontario wine, rather than in the vague and deceptive Cellared in Canada category.

I’m very happy to hear that, especially since that will allow me to concentrate on actual Ontario (and Quebec) wines for the rest of Regional Wine Week.

IMG_4195

As I’ve now started harvesting chardonnay with the whole team at Closson Chase. The grapes went through a tough late season, with very frequent rain causing an onset of botrytis that has rotten a number of bunches. The fruit that is healthy (and there is still plenty of that) tastes grate and is ripe, with yellow skins, brown pips and brown (or browning) stems. Sugars won’t be as high as, say, in the gorgeous 2007 vintage, but the phenological ripeness, which determines a lot in the flavor profile of the grapes and wines, is clearly there.

I’m very glad to get the chance to work alongside Deborah Paskus, one of Ontario’s most solid and experienced winemakers. I interviewed Deborah in January for an En Route magazine article on Canadian winemakers, tasted some of her wines, and got into a very stimulating e-mail conversation about winemaking that eventually led me to visit Prince Edward County in July. The conversation led to a business association, as the wine import agency I’m associated with in Quebec, Insolite Importation, will bring Closson Chase wines to the Quebec market. And in that context, here I am to learn more about growing grapes and making wines with someone who really knows her stuff.

Just read what Jancis Robinson recently had to say about Closson Chase chardonnays:

There’s a highly successful unoaked Chablis style called Sans Chêne as well as regrettably small volumes of an oak-aged bottling. We have served them blind to wine professionals with top white burgundies and, quite literally, amazed and astounded our friends.

You can also check out Beppi Crosariol’s September Globe and Mail article on Prince Edward County, where he reviews two of Deborah Paskus’ chardonnays, and writes about the fact that the County, as a winemaking region, is now coming of age, as vineyards are starting to mature and winemakers are getting a better sense of their terroir.

I certainly agree. While my preference and affinities go with Deborah Paskus’ work at Closson Chase, I have liked a lot of what I tasted in July (and again in September) in various other wineries. One of the very best wines I tasted was Long Dog’s 2007 Otto Riserva pinot noir, a gorgeous, young and elegant red with lots of bright red fruit, good balance and a mineral backbone brought forth by the beautiful limestone that makes Prince Edward County soils so great for wine growing.

There were a lot more. Like By Chadsey’s Cairns’ 2007 Chenin Blanc, which had the lanolin and stone fruit profile typical of that great Loire grape, on a bracing acidity that will surely temper itself well over the years. Norman Hardie’s mineral riesling and refreshing Melon de Bourgogne, Rosehall Run’s lovely Sullyzwicker rosé and very good pinot noir, Sandbank’s fresh and aromatic vidal or Huff Estate’s pleasant whites also easily come to mind.

I’d go into more detail, but I gotta run, now. The press awaits at Closson Chase, as we will start pressing the grapes picked yesterday. I’ll have more to report on that tonight. And more on Prince Edward County wines in general.

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…)

Tasting Note: Pignolo 2003, Castello di Buttrio, Veneto

Italy certainly is a treasure trove of unique grape varieties. Often, these varieties were almost forgotten and lost before being revived, in the last couple of decades, by some dedicated winemakers who just knew that they could provide great wines with distinctive characteristics.

Think of the Arneis of Piedmont, this tasty white grape that hardly only Bruno Giacosa cultivated, at the turn of the 80s, before some producers decided to show what it could do. Or Falanghina, a refreshing and aromatic white grape from Campania. Or the solid wines made from Frappato in Sicily. Or my latest discovery, Pignolo, a traditional venetian grape that definitely has a lot going for it.

The Pignolo I tasted came to me as a sample from Castello di Buttrio, an estate owned by the family of Marco Felluga, and managed by his daughter Alessandra, who are seeking to expand distribution in North America – and would well deserve it.

Beyond the Pignolo, whose name (and bunch shape) evokes a pine cone, they do some very impressive whites, like a lean, bright, mineral chardonnay, and a clean, aromatic and refreshing Friulano.

The Pignolo, Buttrio’s top bottling, (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…)

Regional Wine Writing Project: Napa North? How about Burgundy West?

When I decided to take part in the Regional Wine Writing Project, I started with Quebec, my homeland, which deserves a full introduction to just about anyone that is not a wine lover in Quebec itself. That was easy, in other terms, because just about everything remains to be said. Writing about Niagara, which is, to say the least, more often discussed (and whose wines are more readily available to US readers, as a look through Wine-Searcher.com will tell you), was a bit more of a bind. Where to start?

What finally got me started was a recent Globe and Mail article by John Szabo, where the Niagara region (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: 1998 Conundrum, Caymus Vineyards

If you do things well enough, you can make pretty much anything work in winemaking. Even combinations and approaches that simply shouldn’t make sense.

Want proof? Try some Conundrum, the impossibly complicated blend created by Caymus winemaker John Bolta. It’s made from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon, viognier and muscat from Napa Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and (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…)

On the way up, New Zealand is stopping by

In recent years, New Zealand has certainly been a growing concern on the international wine scene. The sauvignon blancs, of course, and, increasingly, the pinot noirs have been making great headway on world markets. The growth of the industry in general has been simply phenomenal.

Over the last decade, the number of wineries in New Zealand has doubled, the number of hectares under vine has more than tripled (from 7,410 to 25,355 hectares), and the value of exports has been multiplied nearly by ten (from 75.9 million NZ$ to 698.3 million NZ$).

In Canada as elsewhere, the signature sauvignon blanc (more…)

Tasting note: Champagne Pol Roger 1988

There are still some people out there who pretend that there is no point in ageing champagne. I still can’t figure what gave them that idea. I’ve had several bottles of well-aged champagne over the years, and it has always proved delicious, with an added complexity and subtlety that the bright effervescence of youth simply does not provide.

Take the 1988 “blanc de chardonnay” vintage champagne from Pol Roger, which I pulled out from my cellar the other day, to welcome some great friends of mine to a pre-Christmas dinner. The bottle had been in the cellar for (more…)

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 3:41 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , ,