Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Phantom Icewine Crop A Net Gain For Ontario

 Karl Kaiser was all set to leave for England and the London Wine Fair. It was December and he'd told his vineyard crew at Inniskillin Winery under no circumstances touch the rows of late-hanging grapes braving the tumbling temperatures. That was back in 1983 and Canadian Icewine didn't yet exist. 

    On his return from a few days in London, Karl was mortified to find not a single precious grape left on the vines! An excited conversation ensued with the crew and the true perpetrators were revealed. Hordes of hungry starlings had made very short work of the tasty, sweet (unprotected) fruit! 

    And so, it was on to the 1984 harvest and netting was used to protect the delicate fruit, which then yielded delicious Icewine. 

    This groundbreaking Canadian elixir, created by an Austrian wine genius, was destined to be honored at the Oscars of the wine world, at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, winning the Grand Prix d'Honneur as the world's finest example of this stunning dessert wine. 

    It was a turning point for modern Canadian wine, our international signature of wine excellence. And it's all thanks to Karl, who died recently at 76 after a stroke. 

    Dr Kaiser, who received more honors and acknowledgments than you could list, literally brought Canada from its foxy old native grape varieties into the bright light of international acclaim. 

    He had a passion for all wines but his personal grail was great Pinot Noir, the stellar but difficult grape of Burgundy. Apart from launching boutique winery Inniskillin in 1975 with partner Donald Ziraldo, one of Karl's lasting achievements will be helping establish the internationally acclaimed Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University, St Catharines. 

    Karl was one of the great pioneers of Canadian winemaking. We'll all miss him.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hunkering Down For The Winter

It's time -- to seasonally adjust your body with some tasty and pleasantly substantial wines: such as Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2016 from Chateau des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

    Nine months in French oak casks add complexity without overpowering the fruit, leaving you with a lightly buttery, melon-apple, and citrus-crisp charmer. It’s a satisfying13.4% alcohol and you can get one for $14.95.

    In the red wine world, the Chateau’s entry-level Pinot Noir 2015 is sourced from all four of the estate’s farms, 13% alcohol, $16.95. 
Elegant notes of cassis, vanilla, cranberry, raspberry and warm earth recall the summer when it was picked. 
    Venturing offshore for sustenance, you could happily go gaucho in Mendoza, Argentina with the lovely Dona Paula. 

    The Estate Malbec and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, both $16.95, are big, 14.4%, and beautiful. 

    Grown at high altitude, over 1,000 metres, they’re complex and layered with flavors of black fruit, red peppers and spices to match the savoury stews, roasts and steaks we’re now favoring.

    We all know that wines is as old as the hills and the latest guess is that it's 8,000 years old. That's the word from researchers scouring the wilds of Georgia where archeologist Patrick McGovern is unearthing more evidence of ancient grapevines.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thinking Inside The Box

Four bottles of versatile red
If people trusted a little more in the quality of box wines -- 3 litres of mystery you haven't tried yet -- they'd be buying shiploads of these practical packs.It's a sip too far for most of us to risk. 
    However, I've just come across a wine that's selling a million boxes a year in the U.S. and is available now in Ontario. Bota Box, $42.65. That's around $10 a bottle and it's California Cabernet Sauvignon of a fairly high order. 
    The profile is black cherry, black raspberry, crushed black peppercorns and a hint of cassis, round, fresh and mouth-filling with silky tannins. Not a wine to furrow your brow, a wine to enjoy with a bbq, stew, pasta or pizza
Original Bota, or wine skin of old
on the patio, on the kitchen counter, at a picnic, or anywhere you happen to be --without worrying about breaking the bottle of the bank. The airtight bladder shrinks as the wine is consumed and it'll last a month with this clever container. 
    Speaking of quality, though, there's three generations worth in the friendly wines from Delicato Family Vineyards, grown mainly in Napa, Lodi and Monterey. 
    Among the top ten grape growers in California with 4,200 of their own acres and oodles of long-term contract growers, Delicato offer brands like the tropical/green apple Irony Chardonnay from Napa, $24.95, the more elegant Black Stallion Chard (a few left at $30.95), Noble Vines Pinot Noir 667, $19.95, grown from the famous Dijon Clone 667 from Burgundy (cherry, raspberry, toasty oak), Z. as in Zac, Alexander Brown Uncaged, a terrific Zin for $21.95, Gnarly Head 1924 Double Black, a full-bodied field blend of Zin/Syrah that looks like ancient Port wine in the dark bottle, $19.95, and a light, suave Irony North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon for $24.95. 
    In each case, the grapes are vinified in separate lots before barrel aging and ultimately blending. Good value since 1924.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My November 11 Vintages Picks

What's old is new again (again!): Mead, one of the world's most ancient fermented beverages, is BACK, and that's why we have to protect the bumble bees from the nasty neonic pesticides that are wiping them out!

    Rosewood Mead Royale Honey Wine is a divine half litre of sweet stuff, aged in French oak barrels yet, for a mere $16.95. Less than the ancient Romans and Greeks would have shelled out for this ambrosia of peach, white flowers, roasted hazelnut, ginger and caramel pleasure. Historically fermented with water, spices, grains or hops, it makes the perfect medium-sweet sipper or elegant apres-diner closer to a fine meal. Grown in Canadian hives, too. 

    Reminds me of me favorite license plate; BZBZBZ, on a courier van! Also up there as a sweet pleasure is Noble One Botrytis Semillon from De Bortoli in Riverina, New South Wales, Oz. Another one for the Barsac/Sauternes crowd who'd love to afford priceless Chateau Yquem: a quirk of nature from grapes desiccated and intensified by Noble Rot (botrytis, looks hideous, tastes great). $29.95 for 375mL. After dinner, save a mint, literally, and it's not cloying, it's uplifting. Almost worth emigrating to Australia for... 

    Speaking of apres-diner, if something more bracing is your pleasure, there's Glenfarclas 21-year-old Highland Single Malt. It does have a hint of honey and a fino Sherry in its approach although the impression right behind that is that your mouth has been set aflame for a few minutes of BBQ flavors, malt and mocha. And that's OK, although it'll cost you $146.95. There was room and board for quite a while at the distillery. 

    If all that leaves you dry, let's talk Riesling, Henry of Pelham Estate 2013, a star value! This Ontario VQA from Niagara should really have a German passport! The profile is so classic Mosel, petrol, slate, green apple, and lime citrus, just off-dry, that the label should say Heinrich der Pelham. It's great! $17.95, even better.

    Just for the label, The Goatfather, $14.95, is worth trotting out for your next party and the guests will actually like the dry Italian style red. The grapes are grown in South Africa by the guy who makes Goats Do Roam just to tick off the uber-protective French (Cotes du Rhone??) 

    Monterra is a juicy and affordable Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills, $19.95. Has a delicate fruitiness, a touch of sweet beets and truffles. Great with any kind of mushroom dish. 

    Mr Black's Concoction is a Rhone-style GSM grape blend: that's Grenache, Syrah and Mataro (aka Mourvedre) and it's big on raspberry, strawberry, smoke, even a little tar, and savoury earth notes. Delicious $24.95, from Small Gully Wines.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ay Up, Lad! Yorkshire Inn Is Number One!

As an old Yorkshireman, I'm totally chuffed that the Black Swan in the tiny village of  Oldstead, Yorks, has been named by TripAdvisor as the best restaurant in the world.
Ten years ago Tommy and James Banks took over a rundown pub, They were seventeen and nineteen years of age. With their parents and co-workers, the brothers renovated, invested, and created a new culinary style where ‘farm to fork’ cuisine finds its finest expression. Everybody pitches in, cultivating the vegetable garden, and working the harvest. The interior was designed and built as a cooperative effort. Innovation and individual responsibility are the pillars on which the young enterprise has been built. It took only seven years for Tommy Banks – at age twenty-four – to be awarded a Michelin star. Now, TripAdvisor has named Black Swan as the best Fine Dining restaurant in the world, followed by another British eatery, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, in New Milton.And there is a wine from Carnuntum (Austria) that catches the eye among the wine-pairings for the Menu de Dégustation: its name is Prellenkirchen, and it comes from Weingut Muhr-van-der Niepoort.
Grower Dorli Muhr tells about the wine:
The wine is grown on the Spitzerberg in Prellenkirchen (Carnuntum). I submitted it on five separate occasions for the official control number, and five times it was rejected as ‘not meeting the quality standards’. I ultimately bottled it as Landwein (instead of Qualitätswein) – with which it could bear no more detailed designation of origin, region or village. I was even obliged to disguise the name on the label. (The wine is labelled P............N)
Prellenkirchen is served with the scallops

To make this wine, Grüner Veltliner grapes were foot-trodden and fermented on the skins – then matured for a year in large wooden cask before being bottled with 10% Riesling.

"We vinified an ‘orange wine’ before we'd even heard this category exists," says Dorli Muhr. "Wines of this type require time in order to develop. Now, after five years in the bottle, it is simply splendid. In Austria we run up against and push back against – and not only with the tasters for the federal control number – rejection and lack of understanding. But sommeliers all over the world are quite enthusiastic about the wine."
James Banks,the somm at Black Swan is one of them. He serves the 2011 Prellenkirchen with scallops accompanied by celery from the restaurant’s own garden in fermented celery juice and dill, reduced to a fine cream.

"The earthy/acidic notes with the sweetness of the scallops, together with the white wine from Spitzerberg provides an astonishing flavor experience," says Banks. 

It's a great wine list --

The Black Swan is a tranquil rural retreat beside the North York Moors National Park, 20 miles north of York in an area famous for its picturesque scenery, castles, abbeys, market towns, perfect for walking, cycling and touring.