photo-56someWHEREness – OLD SOILS new wines

Tasting Notes from Trade Tasting held at St. James Cathedral Centre in Toronto on Monday, April 20th, 2015. Eleven wineries represented – around the horn it was Norman Hardie Wines, Southbrook Vineyards, Charles Baker Wines, Stratus, 13th Street Winery, Flat Rock Cellars, Cave Spring Cellars, Tawse Winery, Malivoire Wine, Bachelder Niagara and Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery. A separate Late Harvest and Ice Wine table was set up with seven wineries offering sweeter samples.

St. James Cathedral, Toronto

St. James Cathedral, Toronto

Terrior, the french term for Somewhereness, describes the interplay of all the characteristics that make up a wine and how the uniqueness of individual place, type of soil, and varietal choice influence the final product. The Somewhereness experienced continued my belief that Ontario makes delicious wines that truly speak to their sense of place. Balance was a descriptor used to describe many of the wines tasted. Fruit and acidity, tannins and texture, refreshing and satisfying.

“Somewhereness is more than just an event. It allows us to recognize the particular beauty of a place. Since Ontario’s wines have just such a particualr beauty, Somewhereness celebration makes sense in a single sip.” – Matt Kramer, author and wine columnist, quote from programme.

Somewhereness Trade Tasting

Somewhereness Trade Tasting

I tasted whites first, followed by reds with a sweet and a couple sparklers mixed in. Also showcased were a number of artisan food purveyors with some awesome cheeses, smoked salmon, bacon and eggs, breads and preserves offered to compliment and complement the wines. Below are my short notes and impressions from what I tried. Some I thought would be excellent with FOOD and are noted as such.

Norman Hardie Wines

2013 Norman Hardie Wines Calcaire VQA Ontario – mineral witha  tinge of sweetness. Nose and flavours of apricots and granny smith apple. Summer sipper, light and refreshing.

2013 Norman Hardie Wines County Chardonnay VQA Prince Edward County – crisp fruitiness, zingy lemon pith – FOOD

2012 Norman Hardie Wines Niagara Chardonnay VQA Niagara Peninsula – crisp and refreshing, smoother than County, balance.

2011 Norman Hardie Wines Niagara Pinot Noir VQA Niagara Peninsula – floral and pretty, feminine power, excellent. My favourite Pinot Noir of the day.

Southbrook Vineyards

2014 Southbrook Vineyards Small Lot Orange Wine – a natural wine with no sulphates, may use very low (10 ppm) in bottling, cloudy pale orange colour gives way to vibrant orange swirl aromas and crisp blood orange flavours. Definitely unique, discussion about the predisposition to having a taste for a certain amount of sulphates from the trace amounts in most wines.

2012 Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Red VQA Four Mile Creek – freshly opened bottle slightly closed. Beautiful nose of red licorice, raspberry, red ink. Tannic, acidic, young spicy bite. Balanced in its power, still a baby. Decant for FOOD now, will evolve for years to come.

2010 Southbrook Vineyards Vidal Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula – golden brown colour with a nose of caramel squares, sherry notes, caramel apple pie. Flavours replayed with slight acidity, not unctious and not thin but smooth. Sampled with de la terre bakery multigrain baguette topped with rhubarb ginger jam.

Charles Baker Wines

2014 Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard VQA Twenty Mile Bench – minerality and vibrant young fruit sweetness against a lemon lime finish and a dry acidity to end.

2012 Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard VQA Vinemount Ridge – juicy and still young, almost jammy on the nose. Tastes of apple pudding and a lemon curd tart that fell in gravel, hints of petrol starting to evolve. Balanced acidity and fruit, outstanding expression for a hot vintage.

2008 Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard VQA Vinemount Ridge – silky smooth with the same aromas and flavours of the 2012 with more petrol to bring it into a nirvanic state of equilibrium. The next evolution with more integration – outstanding. My favourite white wine and favourite wine of the day.

Stratus Winery

2011 Tollgate White VQA Niagara Lakeshore – nose of fruit and dryness with a hint of caramel, buttery and creamy on the palate with cardamon spice. – FOOD

2014 Wildass Rosé VQA Niagara Lakeshore – pink grapefruit aromas and flavours from this freshly bottled pink prettiness. Clean, clear, dry and refreshing.

2010 Stratus Red VQA Niagara Lakeshore – excellent, perfect balance of dark red fruits and bright acidity. Fine wine finesse that shows how the sum is greater than the parts.

13th Street Winery

NV 13th Street Winery Cuvée Rosé VQA Niagara Peninsula – fantastic nose of Laura Secord strawberry cream chocolates, fine mousse of strawberry and white cherry. Sampled with Fat Chance Cold Smoked Salmon prepared by Imant Malins, enjoyed the smokey fatness of the salmon with the fruit and acidity of the sparkler.

Flat Rock Cellars

2014 Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling VQA Twenty Mile Bench – nose closed at moment but hints of lemon pineapple upside-down cake come through. Lively and exciting on the palate with a luxuriously smooth oiliness, mouth coating then refreshed with acidic backbone. Great expression of Somewhereness. Interesting to taste a new, younger version from this vineyard compared to the 2007 I tasted in the fall.

2012 Flat Rock Cellars Gravity VQA Twenty Mile Bench – dark ruby with a nose of rusty beets. Flavours of red cherry, crisp red current, roasted beets. Smooth tannins for so young. Lots of potential for evolution.

Cave Spring Cellars

2010 Cave Spring Cellars Sparkling Riesling Extra-Dry VQA Niagara Escarpment – nose of petrol, lemon pith, orange peel with a mouthful of lemons and limes and vibrant acidity. Evolving mid-age Riesling with bubbles. You can tell it is a Riesling, in a good way.

2013 Cave Spring Cellars Dolomite Cabernet Franc VQA Niagara Escarpment – crisp nose of red raspberry, brick and clay. Bright acidity to balance the chalky stewed red fruit. Still a baby, potential for fantastic evolution.

Tawse Winery

2011 Tawse Winery Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc VQA Lincoln Lakeshore – inky purple goodness with a nose of black and red fruit. Finely gritty (good) tannins reveal the black raspberry and blackberry acidic backbone.

Malivoire Wine

2011 Malivoire Wine Stouck Meritage VQA Lincoln Lakeshore – inky depth in this dark and angry wine. Grip from tannins and copious black and purple fruit, leather and smoke. Serious and masculine. Lots of life left in this juggernaut.

Bachelder Niagara

2012 Bachelder Chardonnay Mineralité VQA Niagara Peninsula – mineral sweetness on the nose with flavours of crisp apple and lemon

2012 Bachelder Pinot Noir Parfum VQA Niagara Peninsula – lighter style of Pinot Noir with fruit-forward cherry on the nose and palate. Balanced acidity to the fruit. FOOD

2012 Bachelder Lowry Vineyard Pinot Noir VQA St. David’s Bench – balanced and lovely with light red fruit. Integrated tannins for so young, drinking very well now.

Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery

2011 Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery Terroir Caché Red Meritage VQA Beamsville Bench – blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Deep and rich nose of black fruit and stewed liquorice. Chalky and youthful tannic grip with jammy black fruit. Big, balanced wine. Excellent. FOOD


Drive-By Stratus Tasting

Stratus Winery

Stratus Winery

After spending a night in Niagara Falls with the family, we decided to stop at a winery on the way home, specifically Stratus Winery, to pick up a bottle of 2012 Wildass Red as a gift for a friend. It has been a few years since my last trip to Stratus and I was excited to get in and try a few of their fantastic wines. With two kids in tow, I didn’t have a lot of time to make detailed notes on what I tasted but did have a chance to try some recent vintages of their single varietal offerings. Below are what I tried, in the order they were tried, the price of each and the notes I made. Beside the two bottles of 2012 Wildass Red (one gift and one for ourselves), I also picked up the 2012 Kabang Red, the 2012 Stratus Gamay and a bottle of the 2011 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc as that was the beautiful wife’s favourite of what we tried. I enjoyed all that I tried, each wine being distinctive and original.

Wall of Stratus Wine

Wall of Stratus Wine

2011 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc – $29 – Softened herbaceousness, slight grassy note, fresh and clean. A perfect summer sipper dressed in vintage Chanel.

2011 Stratus Viognier – $38 – Nose of closed flower bud and a hint of stone fruit. Flavours of apricots, apricot cookie – fruit forward with some bread/yeasty notes.

2011 Stratus Petit Verdot – $38 – Heavy tannic nose, hints of roses and wet brick. Flavours of dark berry fruit, heavy earthy brick. Brooding and powerful with an elegant finish.

2010 Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon – $55 – Nose of red fruit, flavours of red fruit with grip and still bright tannins. Young, vibrant and alive.

2012 Stratus Botrytis Sémillon – $29 (500 ml) – Nose and flavours both sweet and spicy with pineapple compote and guava.

2004 Wildass Red – Stratus Winery

2004 Wildass Red – Stratus Winery

I picked up this bottle on a trip to Niagara in 2007 with a group of friends as we went down to Niagara Falls for a birthday (Glen I believe) and we stopped at a couple wineries on our way down to the Falls. Actually, more than a couple, slightly more than a few. If I remember correctly there were 9 stops before we headed to Canyon Creek Steakhouse at Fallsview Casino for a great diner. This gong-show winery tour, and by gong-show I mean that they would have never hit that big gong as they would’ve wanted to see what happened next as we cruised from one winery to the next, getting sloppier and sloppier as we went. I tend to remember we hit, in no particular order; Maleta, Pondview, Stratus, Pilliteri, Angel’s Gate, Thirty Bench, Kacaba, Lailey and Peller Estates. I remember clearly that Peller was our last stop as we had just finished a screw-top bottle of Riesling from Angel’s Gate (which was excellent) on the way over. I took a little longer doing my tastings at Peller, having squirrelled my way upstairs to the  “exclusive” tasting bar to sample some of the older vintages. I walked out to the parking lot to see one of our group (who shall remained unnamed) cracking open a bottle of the Peller Ice Cuvee purchased moments before and passing it around brown-bag style, just without the brown bag. We unanimously decided, after quickly finishing the bottle, our winery tour had been successful and headed towards the Falls.

2004 Wildass Red

Stratus 2004 Wildass Red

I am a big fan of Stratus’ 2nd label, Wildass. My first taste of Wildass came at an Orangeville restaurant, 199 (named after it’s address 199 Broadway Avenue, in downtown Orangeville) a couple years previously. Some of my most cherished bottles in my cellar are Stratus wines and it is one of my must-visit stops whenever I get down to the Niagara area. This was my last bottle of 2004 Wildass Red, thankfully still have 2005 through 2009 to enjoy in the future. A Wildass was requested by my brother-in-law for Sunday Dinner to go with Smoked Chicken, Scalloped Potates, Sautéed Zucchini and Buttered Carrots. When it comes to food-wine pairings I tend to follow the good food-good wine theory, picking a good wine to go with the good food I prepare.

I really like wine that smells and tastes like flowers and rocks. With time this 2004 Wildass Red opened to notes of violets, red fruits (cherry, red currents, raspberries). The red fruits were replayed on the palate along with sweet tannins that were silky smooth and totally delicious, like flat limestone river rocks that were thrown through a berry patch. The finish made me want to keep drinking this down in gulps, with all of my willpower needed to prevent me from guzzling it. Thankfully I was able to savour every sip, taking my time to thoughtfully remember the trip on which it was acquired. At 10 years of age this doesn’t have much longevity left, if you happen to have any in your cellar I would suggest a sooner-rather-than-later timeframe for drinking. But please, if you do have some old Wildass, enjoy it with good company. And as you open it think of screw-top Rieslings and slugs of sparkling wine straight from the bottle in winery parking lots.

My last bottle of Wildass 2004 Red