Tasting note: Cave Spring 1995 Beamsville Bench Riesling Icewine, Niagara Peninsula VQA

A little oxydation can be a good thing, now and then. Not only for all these wonderful, “geeky” wines from Jura, as Eric Asimov points out in his New York Times column this week (where he rightly praises the Ganevat Trousseau as a great steak wine… but that’s another story). It can even be true for wines that are not, by design, meant to be oxydated.

Take this 1995 Riesling Icewine from Cave Spring that a good friend of mine recently brought me at a dinner, with a bit of doubt about its condition. There was a tiny bit of leakage on the edge of the cork, and the wine, which he had dug out of a less-travelled part of his cellar, was showing a lot more color than one would usually expect from an (usually bright-gold) icewine.

Was it past its prime? Still drinkable? Hard to tell.

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Instead of opening it with the evening’s dessert, I pulled out a 2001 Ambre from one-0f-a-kind Swiss wine producer Christophe Abbet (see a few words about him here), a fabulous, voluntarily oxydative dessert wine made from late harvest marsanne and arvine. It showed intense candied orange and caramel flavors, and a remarkable freshness, due in good part to arvine’s natural acidity. Not a bad pick at all.

So, my friend did not get short-changed in this exchange of sweets. But neither did I, as I discovered on opening it last week.

The color, when I poured it, was a bit worrisome, as the photo here shows. Dark caramel, almost terra cotta colored, it looked as though it had gone overboard. But the aromas, however, told a different story.

You could sense the oxydative character, with a good dose of baked apple showing up right from the start. But as the wine opened up and met with more oxygen, it started going towards caramelized sugar and, gradually, apricot jam, with a tiny touch of something more earthy, like wet autumn leaves. Nothing rough or tired there, I must say, and the still bright acidity kept it quite fresh and pleasant, with apricot and orange flavors and a touch of spice showing up, with still nice length.

Of course, the high sugar and high acidity in icewine certainly have a good part to play in making it ageworthy and resistant to oxydation. But the extent to which this wine had withstood it – combined with the great impression a four-year barrel-aged icewine from Nova Scotia made upon me last spring – tells me that there could be considerable interest in working that frozen treat with long ageing in oak, which could well bring it more complexity, without taking much away from it.

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California Wine all tastes the same? Says who?

Well, finally back to blogging. After an intense weekend at the Wine Bloggers Conference, followed by four full days of running around Sonoma and Napa – and Fairfield, and Berkeley and San Francisco – and then returning to a new position at the newspaper in Quebec City, and mulling over about twenty different potential post subjects, I finally managed to focus long enough on one subject. And here it is.

One of the things that truly struck me, throughout the tastings I attended at the Wine Bloggers Conference and in the days that followed, was the great diversity of wines I tasted. Yes, there were a good lot of big, fruity, oaky cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays, but there was also a great deal more, in terms of grape varieties, climate variations and winemaking styles. More than I had expected, certainly.

Over my week, I had everything from grassy sauvignon blanc to jammy zinfandels, rustic carignan to (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…)

Biodynamics: up front or backstage?

I’m a huge fan of a great number of biodynamic wine producers, and several “natural wine” producers, this last category essentially meaning that they are not only made from organic grapes, but also totally free of added sulfur, a widely-used stabilizer (For a quick description of the various types of bio wines, click here). Very often, wines made according to these methods have incredible character and individuality. You’ll probably read many raves from me about the artisan winemakers who promote that sort of viticulture and winemaking.

What strikes me, however, is that the promotion of biodynamic winemaking is presented in two ways. Some producers simply acknowledge that they work their vineyards that way – some do it only when they are asked – while others promote the fact that they are biodynamic producers almost as an end in itself. For example, you can’t tell, when looking at a bottle of Petalos, by Alvaro Palacios, (more…)

Pulling back just a touch – take two

The LA Times story about Adam Tolmach, from Ojai Vineyards, saying that he would reduce the alcohol content in his wines to move away from the world of Parkerized wines, which I had mentioned in my previous post, has been gathering a fair bit of steam. The original story was picked up by many on the blogosphere and in the media, including Decanter and The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, often with a sort of glee from people who obviously think that the higher-alcohol trend is just plain wrong.

Yet the shocker comes from Eric Asimov, of the New York Times, who found the characterization of Ojai vineyards’ wines as “over the top” rather strange, since he (and others, like Allen Meadows of Burghound, who is a harsh critic of high-alcohol wines) tends to find Tolmach’s wines rather balanced and elegant. Asimov called Tolmach, who told him he was misquoted, and that his reference to his own, over the top wines pointed to a particular series of pinots he produced from 1992 to 2001.

Still, even though he disagrees with the particulars of the article (more…)