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Wines of Summer – September 15, 2011
Cool Hunting

Christopher Waters favours a Riesling with fall flavours

People-watching these days can tell you a lot about those who are savouring the last glorious sockless days of summer compared to folks desperately trying to force the season. During the drive into VINES HQ each morning this week, I’ve enjoyed watching people sporting shorts and tees pass others rocking fall woolens and tweeds.

To cover the spread, the final post of our Wines of Summer blog focuses on a wine that plays it both ways. The Cornerstone Estate Winery 2009 Riesling ($18, cornerstonewinery.com) is a bright white that offers rich, ripe flavours.

This flavourful wine is part of the rejuvenation afoot at the family owned winery in Beamsville. Owners Jerry and Wanda Kopanski have been working closely with consulting winemaker Andre Lipinski to bring new polish to the winemaking and marketing practices.

This Riesling is clearly made in Lipinski’s style, with a bold character that suggests fully ripe fruit and aging in older, neutral oak barrels played a role. The idea isn’t to impart toasty or oaky flavours in the wine, just gain more mouthfilling texture.

The baked apple, honey and spice flavours would fit right in with classic fall fare, especially the turkey, stuffing and all the fixings bounty of a Thanksgiving feast. The lingering, mouthwatering finish, however, will appeal to the endless summer flip-flop and shorts set as it successfully freshens the palate with a clean sweep of acidity.

Wines of Summer – September 1, 2011
Switching Gears

Christopher Waters toasts a flavourful gateway white

Since its inception, Thirty Bench Wine Makers has been defined by the Riesling grown on its Beamsville Bench vineyard. The rag-tag band of amateur winemakers who established the site in 1980 might not have been well versed in the nuances of grape growing, but they were savvy enough to know that Riesling was the best variety to plant on their 35-acre property.

When the winery was launched in 1994, Riesling made in a variety of styles was once again the focal point, effectively anchoring a portfolio that also included small batches of ultra-premium Chardonnays and Bordeaux reds.

In Thirty Bench’s current incarnation, as a happy member of the Andrew Peller Limited family of wineries, Riesling continues to thrive. Winemaker Emma Garner has crafted a stunning range of single-vineyard wines from the 2010 vintage as well as this stunner, which is informally known as the Winemaker’s Riesling ($18.95, 024133). The winery’s largest production, it’s a new listing through the LCBO Vintages program, which means it’s available for purchase at select stores throughout the year.

A marvelously clean, pure expression of Riesling, this offers a pleasing burst of tropical fruit flavours alongside the classic lime zest and mineral notes that are the benchmark the grape when grown on the limestone-rich soils of the Niagara Escarpment. A terrific expression of grape and site, this is an ideal wine for late summer because it is zippy enough to be refreshing yet fleshy and flavourful enough to get you thinking about the change of season. It’s a gateway white that will effectively aid the shift from shorts and tees to jeans and sweaters in the most pleasing fashion.

Wines of Summer – August 23, 2011
Relax & Refresh

Kelly Schweitzer suggests a white that inspires a new kind of R&R

With the fall season nipping at our heels and people fighting to squeeze in just a few more barbecues, selecting a wine to accommodate everyone’s tastes is a tricky task, especially if you’re not familiar with the preferences of your host or their guests. Luckily, Southbrook Vineyards’ 2010 Connect White ($14.95, 249078) is here to ease the pressure.

While Vidal tends to be kept out of the spotlight, at first sip this white is refreshing, satisfying, and worth mentioning. With subtle hints of fruit on the nose, this wine is well balanced and is great for sipping on its own or with a meal. It has a delicate mouth-feel, one that’s not too acidic, and is clean from start to finish. It has a laidback feel to it, one that evokes images of a relaxing lunch on a patio or casually enjoying with friends.

This is an excellent bottle to have on hand for whenever the mood strikes, and is most certainly a barbecue-worthy wine that will have even the non-wine lover entertaining another glass – a delicious way to wind down the summer.

Wines of Summer – August 11, 2011
La Dolce Vita

Amanda Allison shares why this Italian red should be a summer staple

Each summer, Italy is the top destination for Canadians bound for Europe in search of culture, delicious food and unbelievable wine. For those of us who can’t skip across the pond, here’s a wine to ease the pain of any staycation.

The Masi 2007 Serego Alighieri Poderi Del Bello Ovile ($16.45, 73106) may sound like a mouthful, but one that delivers mouthfilling flavours. Deep maroon coloured, this Tuscan red blend has loads of ripe blue and red berries on the nose, with pleasing earthy notes and a touch of vanilla.

Well balanced with rich cherry, blackberry and pepper on the palate, this full-bodied wine has pleasing texture and soft, lush tannins. An enjoyable finish with a hint of smoke leads you to want either another bite (specifically of anything of the grilled meat, pasta or pizza persuasion) or another sip.

All in all, a delicious wine that is affordable enough to drink on a weeknight and keep on hand, while also having the substance to be the star of a special dinner with friends or family. It’ll have you dreaming of zipping around on a Vespa, snacking your way through Italian cuisine and sipping under the Tuscan sun in no time.

Wines of Summer – August 3, 2011
Nova Heart

Jonathan Wilson shares a taste of an East Coast cult wine

Moscato.  Some of you will know it immediately. For others, it may take a memory jog. And, for the rest, they will have no idea whatsoever about this hugely aromatic grape variety.  That’s bound to change, if as some wine experts have claimed, Moscato is the Next Big Thing.

Moscato refers to the style of wine made in Piedmont, Italy: A light, slightly sparkling, off-dry, floral, fruity concoction that’s perfect for summer sipping.

In 2008, Benjamin Bridge, then a relatively new upstart winery in Nova Scotia, began making waves with their first commercial release of Nova 7, a homegrown model of this delicious treat.

Jean-Benoit DesLauriers, resident winemaker at Benjamin Bridge, credits the inspiration for Nova 7 to winery consultant Peter Gamble. In 2006, Gamble produced an experimental batch, in the hopes of combining the aromatic strength of Muscat with the refreshing acidity provided by Nova Scotia’s cool climate.

“If any parallels were to be drawn with international offerings,” DesLauriers explains, “Nova 7 was created as a stylistic cross between the bright/crisp style of the Mosel Valley and the floral/decadent attributes of a Moscato d’Asti.”

That experimental offering was never commercially released, however Gamble and winery owner Gerry McConnell saw that they were onto something.

Production for the 2010 Nova 7 increased almost astronomically to approximately 2,500 cases (the first release, from the 2008 vintage was a mere 2,700 bottles). Cases continue to fly off the shelves at the NSLC, as well as private wine retailers. 

DesLauriers is justifiably proud of Nova 7’s evolution and success. “Like any winemaker with the desire to illustrate and share the uniqueness of a given terroir, I think that the enthusiastic response to the product are compliments to the nature and qualities of the birthplace of the wine: our vineyard and its regional surroundings… I’m excited at the prospect that the success of Nova 7 may help promote Nova Scotia as a region renowned for its aromatic white wines.”

Oh, and fear not Ontario readers.  Although the trip to Nova Scotia this summer would be worth it for the wine alone, Benjamin Bridge is releasing 55 cases to the LCBO for the August 6 Vintages release.  Run, don’t walk. Your patio was built for wines like this.

Wines of Summer – July 27, 2011
Get Gew

Amanda Allison shares why you should get your hands on B.C.’s bestseller

You know how people say good things happen for a reason? Well, the reason Sumac Ridge Estate Winery Gewürztraminer is the number one VQA brand in British Columbia is because it’s always very, very good.

Try the 2009 Private Reserve Gewürztraminer ($15.45, 157495) and you’ll see it lives up to the hype. The 2009 vintage was a challenging one for the Summerland-based winery, and the Okanagan Valley in general. A cold winter meant the vines took a while to get into the flow of things and compacted the season into a short period. Luckily, a warm August caught everything up and created this pretty wine.

The addition of a small percentage of other grapes creates complexity on the nose. There is a highlight on floral, but with grapefruit and spice notes too. This has great weight and is fleshy on the palate, with flavours of citrus peel, pear, crisp apple and another dash of spice. The finish is crisp and clean with lingering ripe fruit.

Serve this alone for casual sipping on the deck or be adventurous and pair it with spicy Asian cuisine — an exotic match that many sommeliers recommend. Either way, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy the beauty of this wine and appreciate why it’s No. 1 on the VQA charts.

Wines of Summer – July 21, 2011
Pop Eye

Christopher Waters samples an astonishing new release

Tantalus Vineyards takes Riesling seriously. That's why they're been a beacon to all who crave fresh, intense and pure versions of the grape since its 2005 Old Vines Riesling sent shockwaves through the British Columbia's wine industry.

Jane Hatch, general manager of the estate winery in Kelowna, explains how the team often gathers to taste the fermenting wines from tank, eager to divine the latest expression from the vineyard which has Riesling vines that date back to 1978.

"When it's hit the perfect balance between acidity and sweetness, you can see it in our eyes," she says, miming a wide-eyed, jaw agape state of wonder. "That's when (winemaker) David (Paterson) halts the fermentation."

The newly unveiled 2010 Riesling ($22.90) is bound to bring the same stupefied look to the faces of wine lovers  It's brisk key lime, green apple and mineral character is countered by juicy tropical fruit flavours. It's focused. Delicious.

The style is something of a departure, Hatch explains. A cooler vintage meant grapes where harvested weeks later than usual, with more acidity. The wine's core of juicy fruit is fleshier than the clean, crisp house style of past estate Rieslings. Not that there's anything wrong with that. There's still plenty of vitality and edge to bring a bemused smile to your face.     

Wines of Summer – July 13, 2011
King Koonunga

Christopher Waters delights in this classic Australian red blend

Lest you think that our Summer selections will solely focused on crisp, refreshing whites, here’s a rich, flavourful red blend that’s certain to be the star attraction at your next barbecue bash. It’s the sort of well-rounded, flavourful red that will become your new favourite red faster than you can say “barbie.”

What’s most impressive about the new vintage of Penfolds’ Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet is its price (around $16 in most parts of the country, 285544). The Koonunga Hill label’s value for money is no doubt one of the reasons why Penfolds was named by select Canadian sommeliers as one of the A-List producers who make great wines at a variety of price points. Watch for the sommelier report, Pro Shop, in our upcoming August/September issue. (See last year’s feature here.)

In the meantime, seek out this well-made, affordable red that offers pure cherry and cassis flavours that are accented by nice spice and licorice notes. The only word of warning, you might want to have an ice bucket at the ready. If you’re not careful, the summer heat can make suck the fun out of this wine, making it seem too tannic or alcoholic. A quick ice bath will help maintain the wine’s obvious charm and appeal.

Wines of Summer – July 5, 2011
Fashion Forward

Amanda Allison shares what’s under the cap of Vineland’s new Chardonnay

Summer’s hot days and cool nights are a great fit for unoaked Chardonnay. In past years, Chardonnay has gotten a bad rap for being overly oaked, heavily manipulated and too focused on tropical, butter or vanilla notes. More recently however, a new range of wineries (including Ontario producers) are spinning the Anything-But-Chardonnay trend on its head — crafting premium, more subtle, oak-aged bottles as well as a stunning variety of unoaked offerings.

The refreshing zip of well-made unoaked examples gives them a flawless ability to pair with food. That’s why they have long been celebrated as a quintessential selection. They’re a food and wine staple, the little black dress of the wine cellar if you will, that works with whatever event or occasion that you pair it with in style. A good quality unoaked Chardonnay is right at home on your dinner table, in your picnic basket or slid into your cooler for nights at the cottage.

A prime example of flavourful and powerful Chardonnay without the hyperbole is Vineland Estates Winery 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay ($12.75, 669374). This is a bright Chardonnay with a helping of 15 percent Pinot Blanc for roundness of flavours and 10 percent Chardonnay Musqué for an aromatic lift. Lovely, fresh and fragrant, this has a creamy palate and a refreshing finish. A great match for lemon herbed roast chicken, cheese plates or pasta with a cream sauce.

While on the subject of Chardonnay, check out the Sip & Snap contest on our Facebook page for a chance to win two passes to the Cool Climate Chardonnay World Tour event, July 23 from 4:30 to 8:30 pm at Tawse Winery in Vineland. A $150 value.

Wines of Summer – June 30, 2011
The Eh Team

Amanda Allison toasts our nation’s 144th birthday with a new take on a Canadian classic

While it’s hard to invision a more Canadian cocktail than a Caesar, Canadian Club had found a way to pump up the ‘eh!’ factor.

The classic Caesar was created in 1969 by Calgary Westin Hotel bartender Walter Chell. The hotel was running a contest to create a new cocktail and Chell spent months figuring out the perfect mix of tomato juice, clam nectar, lime, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt and vodka to win the big prize — and get written into Canadian history books. Shortly after, the Mott’s company teamed up with Chell to create what’s now requested at pubs, restaurants and cottage decks from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver — Clamato juice.

With the addition of Canadian Club Classic 12 ($26.95, 126466), a multi-award winning rye whisky, the Caesar is ready to retire to the cottage, eat Timbits and play hockey with the rest of us. This 12-year-old rye is full and smooth, with creamy vanilla and spicy wood notes, which makes it great to drink on the rocks or to make a premium cocktail.

There’s no better time to enjoy this tribute to all things Canadian than on the nation’s birthday. Cheers, Canada!

Canadian Club Classic Caesar
1 part Canadian Club Classic 12-year-old
juice from ½ lime
4 parts Clamato juice
4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 dash of pepper
celery stalk or lime wedge (garnish)

In a tall glass full of ice, combine Canadian Club, lime juice, Clamato, Tabasco, Worcestershire and pepper. Garnish with celery or lime wedge.

Wines of Summer – June 28, 2011
Savvy Standout

Amanda Allison reaches for a wine with a bold personality

At a recent Wines of Chile event in Toronto, a certain Sauvignon Blanc stood out from the crowd. Viña Concha y Toro 2010 Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc ($10.95, 578641) had the oomph and presence to make itself known, even when surrounded by pricier counterparts.

Because of this outgoing personality, VINES is recommending it as a Wines of Summer. Concha y Toro is a very consistent producer, even called so in the VINES Second Annual Sommelier Survey that’s coming up in our next Buyer’s Guide issue, and their budget-friendly Casillero del Diablo portfolio is big part of that reliability. This is fresh and personable Sauvignon Blanc with all the right notes, including typical citrus and grass. Though its nose is fruity with hints of sweetness, the palate is crisp and clean. It has a full, rounded mouthfeel and is elegant from start to finish. Fresh tropical fruits, like lime and melon play on the palate, while the finish has a refreshing zip.

We can see this pairing with a hot and sunny afternoon in your backyard lounger, with a fresh salad for light lunch with friends or at a dinner party served with the seafood course. It’s an affordable, approachable and attractive wine that delivers solid Sauvignon Blanc character without being too aggressive or austere. There’s no doubt, it’ll stand out whenever you chose to pour it. 

Wines of Summer – June 21, 2011
First Blush

Christopher Waters and a new Niagara rosé come under scrutiny

Every so often winemakers delight in turning the tables on wine writers, presumably as payback for past indiscretions. A recent instance saw Hillebrand winemaker Craig McDonald answer a question with a question.

McDonald stepped into the head winemaking position at Andrew Peller Limited's Niagara operations last year, filling the vacancy left by his close friend and fellow Aussie Darryl Brooker. Since taking the reins, McDonald has focused much of his attention on the Trius portfolio, adding a Pinot Grigio and a Rosé to the family of wines that was launched in 1989 with the inaugural vintage of Trius Red.

When it came time to taste the new Trius Rosé ($15.75, winery only), I asked what he used to make the vibrant cranberry-coloured wine staring back from the glass at me.

“What do you think is in it?,” he asked with a smirk. “Let’s have some fun…”
Fun wouldn’t have been the word I would have used.

Running through the swirl, sniff, sip, slurp and spit regimen, I jotted down “peppery notes, ripe strawberry fruit and pleasing, round texture.”

My verdict: Gamay and Merlot. That peppery character is common to Niagara Gamay, something that Amanda Allison and I have been exploring in depth for the next issue. The berrylicious character and fleshy texture spelled Merlot. McDonald’s wide smile made me think I’d just failed his pop quiz.

“I like the way you put that,” he said. “It’s actually Shiraz and Merlot.”

My prize? Bragging rights, mostly. And the remains of the bottle, which was produced as a summery selection for visitors to Hillebrand Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Trust me, it’s well worth the drive. Best of all, no one there will ask you any skill testing questions. You just get to enjoy.

Wines of Summer – June 15, 2011
Spice Essence

Amanda Allison toasts a complex and delicious spiced rum

We’re just starting to get into the truly hot days of summer and already we here at VINES HQ are breaking the rules of our Wines of Summer blog. This week, we stray from our traditional inspiration to bring you something else delicious and refreshing – Cruzan 9.

Premium craftsmanship has been key to the Nelthropp family’s success with their brand, Cruzan. They’ve called St. Croix home for eight generations and drew from this history to create Cruzan 9 ($27.95, 225680), in reference to both the nine spices in the blend and the nine districts of this popular hotspot in the Virgin Islands.

“We’ve balanced the blend of spices to create something that will be new to many spiced rum drinkers, but will feel very familiar to the people of St. Croix, who enjoy the bold flavour and kick of classic spiced rums,” said Gary Nelthropp, the family’s master distiller.

This bold and intense rum’s distinctive character is created by blending vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, allspice, pepper and juniper berry. The amber coloured spirit definitely highlights these spices, with vanilla and cinnamon at the forefront and rich, complex notes of caramel, toast and cedar layered in.

This is smooth enough to enjoy on the rocks and works great with cola and a squeeze of lime. But, we at VINES highly recommend infusing its great taste into a refreshing summer cocktail, like the Cruzan 9 Strawberry Kiss listed below. For more great cocktail recipes, visit cruzanrum.com

Cruzan 9 Strawberry Kiss
1 oz Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum
½ oz strawberry liqeur (or juice)
6 oz. pineapple juice
Build over ice in a tall galss. Garnish with a strawberry and/or a pineapple wedge.

Wines of Summer – June 10, 2011
Funky Fresh

Christopher Waters salutes an extreme white

Lawrence Buhler is justifiably proud of the Sauvignon Blancs he produced in 2010 at Peller Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, including the complex and forceful Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc that includes portions fermented in oak and an egg-shaped concrete fermenter.

The Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc is a truly amazing, complex white with a heavenly mix of ripe, rich aromas and flavours. It is one to watch for when released later this year.

The winner for summer, and one of the most exciting under $12 Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted from anywhere, however, is the 2010 Family Series Sauvignon Blanc.

As he poured a sample into my glass, Buhler explained that the Family Series white is a little funky. “This is definitely on the edge,” he said cryptically as he set the bottle down.

One sniff went a long way to demonstrating what he meant. It’s a serious Sauvignon Blanc with bold tropical and grapefruit aromas combined with a pronounced sweaty note. “Funky” is a good adjective for something so ripe, zesty and exotic.

On the palate, it’s remarkably focused, fresh and very dry. All in all, a serious expression of the grape from what is proving to be a remarkable vintage.
This might be too austere and exotic for some who routinely shop for inexpensive bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, which typically offer more fruity notes and residual sugar to please the masses. But those who love it, like I do, will know this calibre of wine doesn’t often come our way for $11.95. peller.com

P.S. For more insight into Buhler’s personality, read Amanda Allison’s profile from this issue’s Road Scholars feature.

Wines of Summer – June 1, 2011
Fresh Look

Paige Westbrook’s sneak peek at Good Earth’s 2010 Rieslings

In her first vintage as winemaker at The Good Earth Food and Wine Co., Andréa Glass has come up with a pair of Rieslings that are tailor made for summer sipping. “The dry Riesling is dry. It’s not fake dry, it’s real dry, three grams of residual sugar and I really like that,” says Glass. “The off dry is a little more residual with about 20 grams.”

According to Glass, Riesling is an adaptable grape for cooler climates; it’s the perfect pairing for Ontario’s ever-changing weather patterns and is one of the few grapes that truly excel in the region.

“I like making Riesling, especially in Niagara,” she says. “Mainly because I think it excels here and it’s not a pain. It’s very versatile, you can go anywhere from dry to sweet to Icewine to sparkling.”

Glass’ 2010 Rieslings are a complimentary duo, both offering a hint of sweetness with a light citrus peel note that is best enjoyed while young and fresh. What is labelled as The Good Earth Dry Riesling would be a refreshingly crisp match for oysters, calamari and other simply prepared fish and seafood dishes, while the Riesling is a perfect foil for entrées with spicy sauces or fruit glazes. Both are available at the Beamsville winery. goodearthfoodandwine.com


Wines of Summer – May 24, 2011
Spritz Appeal

Paige Westbrook salutes the season with an unusual white

Just in time for summer, Malivoire Wine Company has released its 2010 Musqué Spritz. The unique aromatic white is more comparable to a sparkling wine than a still one. Its subtly fizzy texture comes from capturing the high CO2 content that escapes most wines during the fermentation process.

Shiraz Mottiar, winemaker at the Beamsville winery says, “The Musqué is a very aromatic wine and what I find with that variety is that the expression of the aromatics and those flavours are most predominant early in the ripening process.”

The Musqué Spritz has an aroma of tropical fruit, followed by fresh and juicy hints of melon and peach on the palate. Made to be enjoyed until 2013, it’s kept under screw cap rather than cork to help maintain its naturally carbonated state.

“As the grapes ripen and the sugars increase, the acids drop,” says Mottiar. “With the Musqué, I like it at a point where the acids are high. This leaves some residual sugar in the wine, which comes from stopping the fermentation process early.”

The Musqué Spritz is made with a Muscat clone of the Chardonnay grape, often full of intensity and aroma. The slight fizzy texture pairs well with its off-dry versatility, allowing it to be enjoyed with a number of meals. Mottiar recommends seafood, or something with a curried base to compliment its sugary nature.

“The Musqué is lightly pressed to extract some of the wonderful flavours locked in the skin, then it’s fermented at a very cool temperature and slowly, to allow for ample flavour intensity,” says Mottiar.

Malivoire 2010 Musqué Spritz is available at the winery and on their website.