It is now day 4 of wearing the puffy coat and big snow boots
You know it’s bad when you start dreaming of warmer weather…in November.
That’s right, it’s not even officially winter and we already have a foot of snow in Ottawa…and it’s here to stay.
View from the front door
In wine terms, normally as the cold weather settles in, you reach for fuller-bodied wines to accompany hearty winter meals like stews and roasts.
Me on the other hand? I am dreaming of warmer temperatures and my wine choices are reflecting that. Instead of stocking up on big, bold reds, I seem to be buying—of all things—lighter-bodied fragrant whites. Is it just a major case of denial? Winter is here, get over it, Mel! But no, I’d prefer to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nicer weather is just around the corner, despite all the signs to the contrary. By the way, whose idea was it to have the sun set at 4:30? Continue reading
Yes, you read that right. “Vineyards” and “Ottawa Valley” uttered in the same title. Could it be? Is it truly possible?
The answer is: yes and yes.
For the past three years, right across the road from the Diefenbunker, a 47-acre plot of land has housed 10 acres of Burgundian grape varietals pinot noir and chardonnay. Continue reading
Let us take a moment of silence to mark the end of a glorious two weeks of vacation. It was a brief staycation, cut short by my employer’s requirement that I actually return to work. Total buzzkill. This time off will be sorely missed. But it’s time to get back to saving the world, one translation at a time [translator’s note: this may be a gross exaggeration].
Some of you may recall that I went to the California Wine Fair last Friday which, as it turns out, was a somewhat disappointing experience.
For one thing, my wine count went down from the 42 wines tasted at the Taste Ontario event to somewhere between 30-35. And since I always seem to be in some sort of internally-driven competition, this felt like a loss of some sort, even though the competition was against myself and myself alone (which would make me a winner as well, no?).
This was partly due to the fact that at 5 p.m., 2 hours after my arrival, the lights flickered on and off, indicating the end of the trade tasting. At this point the pourers began promptly removing bottles from the table, and the panic among tasters was palpable. What? That’s it? It’s over already? But we were just getting started!
Last week I went to Taste Ontario, my very first trade tasting! In Part 1 I talked about the atmosphere and a few of my discoveries in the typical-Ontario-grapes category. Let’s continue, shall we? I know you’re all excited to hear about more of my Ontario favourites.
- Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc 2014: I can always recognize a cab franc because for some reason, it makes me think of green apple Mentos. They don’t sell those here in Canada sadly, but every time I am in Europe or in the States, I pick up a few packs, because they remind me of my childhood summers in France.
In reality, these mentos taste very little like green apple. There is no acidity or sourness to them, they just have a mildly sweet flavour that is perhaps closer to pear than apple. In any case, every time I smell or taste cab franc, that is the flavour that comes to mind. It drove me crazy in wine classes because no one knew what the heck I was going on about with my green apple mentos flavours. Eventually I learned that in the wine tasting world, my green apple is everyone else’s “vegetal” or “green pepper”. Just goes to show how subjective wine tasting is!
Now back to the wine! Vineland offers a typical cab franc: cherry, dark fruit/berries, red apple, with a hint of that nice
green apple mentos vegetal component. One of the flavours typically associated with cab franc is pencil shavings (I know, weird right?). But I didn’t get much of that on this wine.
- Closson Chase Brock Chardonnay 2014:
Same bottle, different vintage
This is a lovely oaked chardonnay from Prince Edward County. Lots of tropical fruit, banana, pineapple, butterscotch and a hint of minerality. I’m really hoping this will be available at the LCBO this year. Otherwise we’ll have to stop in PEC on our way to Niagara!
- Honourable mention: Château des Charmes Equuleus blend, made of cab sauv, cab franc and merlot. This wine had a wonderful fruity aroma. On the palate, there were dark berries and dark cherry, as well as pepper and alcohol. All very nicely balanced. Beware of the sticker shock though ($40).
The “other” guys
So those are the wines based on grapes that tend to do really well in our cold Ontario climate. But there were a few “outsiders”—i.e. grapes other than riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and cab franc—that caught my attention. In fact, it was the viogniers that won me over.
- Nyarai Viognier 2015: I wrote about my conversation with Nyarai winemaker Steve Byfield in Part 1. There is nothing to be humble about with this wine. I looooved it. Had I not had 41 more wines to taste, I would have treated myself to at least 3 sips. But it looks like I am going to have to order this wine directly from this virtual winery (once it’s updated with the most recent vintage, that is). That’s right, while Nyarai sources its grapes from a couple of conscientious vineyards in the Niagara area, there is no physical winery to speak of and the bottles are only available online (and at the LCBO if we’re lucky). Definitely grab this one if you ever see it on the shelves.
- Creekside Reserve Viognier Queenston Road Vineyard 2013: Only 150 cases were made of this beautiful, smooth viognier that was aged in French oak. I got notes of stone fruit with a bit of pear and light citrus. This is not your typical Ontario wine, and it blew my mind a bit that Ontario could make such startlingly different wine styles. Very few bottles left at the LCBO.
- Honourable mention: Closson Chase Pinot Gris 2015: This is a light, refreshing summer sipper with nice peach, melon and honey notes. Not available online but can by purchased individually at the PEC winery or by the case online using the link above.
- Westcott Vineyards – This was one of the last wineries whose table I visited at the event. At this point, the hotel was kicking people out, but the Westcotts were kind enough to let me linger at their table a while so we could chat about their wines (and so I could taste them, of course). I love that each of their wines is named after iconic women of the 1920s (though I couldn’t tell you which ones). I particularly enjoyed the Delphine rosé 2013, a Burgundian-influenced pinot noir/chardonnay-based rosé that will be available at the LCBO this fall (yay!). I also really liked their Estate Chardonnay 2013. This full-bodied white was aged on its lees for a year in French oak, which comes across in toasted notes and tropical fruit. It had really nice body and balanced structure.
To close, a lesson learned: never leave your glass by the spitoon at a wine tasting.
I’m heading to the California Wine Fair on Friday, so get your glasses ready—I’m going to have lots of recommendations for you this weekend!
In the meantime, happy wining!