“Extreme” Inniskillin or winter in Canada

Jan 21, 15 “Extreme” Inniskillin or winter in Canada

Posted by in All, Food and Wine

Earlier this month I jetted off to Ontario, Canada to check out their Ice Wine Festival and while I was there, we visited one of the legendary wineries of Canada, Inniskillin. The winery was founded in Niagara-on-theLake over 35 years ago by Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser. Their goal being to produce premium wine from the Niagara Peninsula. This they did but not without a few bumps along the way.  In 1983, they attempted their first harvest of ice wine made from the Vidal grape. It was a great year for ice wine but unfortunately the birds thought so too and ate all the berries from the vines before they could be harvested. Lesson learned, the next year the winery put nets up around the vines so that the birds would not be able to eat 1984’s harvest and thus was Inniskillin’s first ice wine harvest. In 1991, Inniskillin was awarded the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo for their 1989 Ice wine. Since then, Inniskillin has been world renowned for their ice wine which they make from Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. They also produce still table wines from Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Merlot. As we were in Canada in the middle of winter, we were just in time to participate in a little bit of ice wine harvesting. Inniskillin offers a myriad of wine tastings, wine and food matching sessions and events at the winery. Check out their website for more info. Anyway, back to harvesting. Most harvesting is done at night so that the berries are still frozen solid. This is done because if the grapes warm up and get mushy, it will affect the concentration and flavour of the wine. One of the main criteria for ice wine harvest is that the temperature must be below -8C for at least 3 or 4 days in a row before picking can commence. Although we arrived mid-day, they still let us pick a few grapes from the vines and believe me, at...

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Ice, Ice (Wine) Baby – Niagara’s Ice Wine Festival

Jan 14, 15 Ice, Ice (Wine) Baby – Niagara’s Ice Wine Festival

Posted by in All, N. America

This past weekend I visited Ontario, Canada to learn a bit more about the delicious ice wines that they produce at their annual Niagara Ice Wine Festival as well as getting a great introduction to the region. The Niagara Ice Wine Festival has been going on since the 1990’s and is your chance to sample all that gorgeous golden (and ruby red) nectar. For those of your unfamiliar with ice wine, it is most famously made from the riesling grape in Germany and Austria – where it get’s cold enough for the berries to freeze in winter. Although it’s debatable as to who made the first ice wines in Ontario, most attribute it to the Inniskillen winery which was one of the wineries we visited while we were there. The most popular grape used in Ontario is the vidal grape which is a hybrid of ugni blanc and Rayon d’Or (I’d never heard of Rayon d’Or either). It was originally produced to be used in Cognac but somehow found its way to Canada where it has a happy home. Ice wine can’t be produced until the temperature stays at -8C for at least a few days. This is to ensure that the grapes picked are frozen through. There can be some thawing during the day but they must be literally hard as a rock to be picked. For this reason, most harvesting is done at night, when the temperature drops. Ice wine is also made from the cabernet franc grape.We had the opportunity to try cab franc ice wines while we were there and I have to say that despite my trepidation, cab franc makes a fabulous ice wine. At Inniskillen we had their cab franc ice wine paired with S’mores (a marshmallow, dark chocolate and graham cracker concoction – if you grew up going to camp as a kid in N. America, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about). It’s quite easy to make S’mores with all the wood burning camp fires set up at the wineries....

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Langlois-Chateau, Loire Valley wines

It may seem like I only drink champagne but that’s not true. Sometimes I drink sparkling wine, too. All kidding aside, I do enjoy a good sparkling wine and some of my favourites are cremants.  A cremant is a French sparkling wine that does not come from the Champagne region. It’s as simple as that. So for example, you can have a Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Alsace, or as in this particular post, a Cremant de Loire. In each case, the sparkling wine is made from grapes that are grown locally and usually produced in the traditional method but not always. I met up with the the wine maker for Loire Valley producer, Langlois-Chateau, Francois-Regis de Fougeroux recently  for lunch at Cigalon on Chancery Lane. Francois-Regis brought along  his sparkling wines as well as a few red wines for us to have with lunch. The white sparkling was composed of chenin blanc, chardonnay and cabernet franc and the rose sparkling was 100% cabernet franc. Langlois-Chateau is owned by Bollinger and benefits from the experience and expertise that the Champagne house brings to the table. They are the only house that buys grapes and then vinifies them separately as opposed to other producers in the Loire who buy the “must” and make their sparkling wines from there. They also use the “traditional method” with the wines spending at least 2 years in the cellar before being released. All of this results in sparkling wines that have much in common with champagne. The brut sparkling wine had very fine bubbles with good balance and citrus fruit flavours, a great aperitif. I really enjoyed the rosé, an aromatic and fruity nose followed on by loads of strawberries and raspberries on the palate, very fresh and morish. Francois-Regis calls this his “swimming pool” wine, perfect for lounging on a hot (well, here in England the most we can hope for is a warm) summers day. Another plus in choosing cremant de Loire’s is the price tag. Both...

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Oldenburg Vineyards Rhodium 2010

Apr 03, 13 Oldenburg Vineyards Rhodium 2010

Posted by in Australia

Rhodium sounds like a precious metal and it is, it’s found alongside platinum and 90% of it is in South Africa. It’s also the name of Oldenburg’s newest release. I think we know where they got the inspiration for the name of the wine. It’s always exciting to be at the launch of a new wine and last Thursday at High Timber restaurant, I was present at a dinner with Oldenburg Vineyards owner Adrian Vanderspuy when he poured for us the first vintage of Rhodium, the 2010. But first a bit of background on Oldenburg Vineyards. Oldenburg Vineyards is owned by South African Adrian Vanderspuy. The estate is a boutique winery comprised of 30 hectares and is in the Banghoek Valley in Stellenbosch. Adrian is just starting out on his winery adventure with Oldenburg, having planted the vineyard only a few years ago and he is still finding his feet so to speak, in regards to what works best for the winery. He’s is a big supporter of chenin blanc and rejected the more conventional sauvignon blanc when he was planting his vineyard. He feels that chenin blanc has a strong connection with South Africa and that they should be encouraging it’s growth within their wine industry. As a matter of fact, Oldenburg have been so successful with their chenin that respected winemaker Ken Forrester buys the grapes Oldenburg doesn’t vinify. As for the reds, thankfully, Adrian is not a big fan of pinotage. I’m not either, although having spoken to some producers, they claim that it’s a matter of finding the right terroir for pinotage. Adrian prefers to leave them to it. He believes that South Africa should lead with single variety and Bordeaux based blends. As such, he is focusing on growing cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and syrah. The Rhodium is the result of this desire to produce world class Bordeaux blends from South Africa. We were treated to the soon to be released and first vintage of the Rhodium, the 2010. What is...

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Montes “M” vertical 2001-2010 tasting with Aurelio Montes

Dec 04, 12 Montes “M” vertical 2001-2010 tasting with Aurelio Montes

Posted by in Chile

Chilean winery owner Aurelio Montes was in town the other day on a quick visit to promote his wines. Montes is a Chilean winery, that even with a production of 7 million bottles a year, is considered a small to medium sized winery in South America. Aurelio brought along a vertical of their iconic wine, Montes Alpha M 2001 – 2010 for us to try. Montes makes a variety of wines but the one that Aurelio is most proud of is their “M” series. A Bordeaux blend, it is comprised of 80% cabernet sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% merlot and 5% petit verdot. Aurelio compares his wines to those of the Left Bank and told us that it was recently blind tasted in Los Angeles against some of the best Bordeaux in the world. Surprisingly for many, it came out second only to Chateau Lafite. Not bad for a New World wine that’s only been in production for a short time. Before we tasted through the wines, Aurelio advised us that although all the vintages are good, the even numbered years are a bit weaker when compared to the odd numbered years. So, without further ado, my notes on the Montes Alpha M 2001 – 2010, a really good tasting in my opinion… Montes Alpha M 2001: A round and polished wine, licorice and black fruits on the nose with excellent acidity and a lush nose. An intense but not jammy palate with round tannins and a long finish. After awhile notes of freshly brewed tea began to show on the finish. Montes Alpha M 2003: Blackberries and a hint of mint on an integrated, well structured wine, the tannins were not as soft as the 2001 but I didn’t think that was a bad thing. Long finish with a minty freshness to it. Montes Alpha M 2004: This was the wine that came second to Lafite. The year was cooler then average which gave a wine with less intensity in colour, ripe red fruits on the nose...

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