Weekend Wine Picks and Award-winning Wines

mission hill winery Mission Hill Family Estate Winery  in  BC’s Okanagan Valley received  top honours this week. Wine Align, the online wine rating service awarded it  Winery of the Year, snatching it from Ontario’s Tawse, which  has won for the past three years.

The award of distinction is based on five of its wines that received gold and platinum medals at this year’s National Wine Awards.  They are:

Mission Hill Riesling Reserve 2011 – Platinum 100% Riesling – This was the first wine in the flight of award winners. This wine would turn me into a regular Riesling drinker. The nose sent me to a peach and honey heaven.  It was perfectly balanced, with a deliciously long finish.

Mission Hill  Chardonnay Reserve 2011  100% Chardonnay . Citrus meets a hint of coconut. Aged in oak for eight months, it is very subtle.

Mission Hill Perpetua Osooyos Vinyard Estate 2010 Chardonnay    100% Chardonnay This is part of the winery’s  Legacy series of Premium wines.

Mission Hill   Compendium  2009 – Platinum – This is a Bordeaux-inspired blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. Also part of the Legacy Series, it is wine-making at its finest. Complex, full-bodied and elegant.

Mission Hill  Riesling Icewine 2011 – Admission – I know it is very unpatriotic to say I am not a fan of icewine because we produce some of the best in the world……but there are no absolutes. This was simply outstanding. Exceptionally balanced so the sweetness was perfect and not overwhelming, which is why they are often not my favourites. If you get the chance, try this one.

Sadly not all of these wines are available across the country unless by special order. Why we can’t order our own wines directly from the winery as they do in the US continues to be a mystery.  But here are a few wine picks that are available for your sampling this weekend.

cave springCave Spring 2011 Riesling Estate VQA Beamsville Bench ($17.95) There  was a cornucopia of Ontario releases at the LCBO this week. I am on a mission to get reacquainted with Riesling especially because there are such fine examples from BC and ON. If you like citrus with a touch of honey and pear – you will like this wine. It is fresh and appealing. Perfect with Sushi.

 

riojaDomeco de Jarauta Lar de Sotomayor Vendemia Rioja 2010 ($17.95) Spanish wines are often overlooked in the showy presence of their neighbouring spotlight hoggers in Italy and France. This Rioja has some punch to it. It is full-bodied with notes of black and red fruit. 90% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano grapes. Great value.

 

mcmanis syrah 2011McManis Syrah 2011 ($19.95) Speaking of big and luscious, this Californian delivers in every way. This wine will keep you warm sitting on a patio with a blanket because you are not ready to move indoors just yet. Red fruit jammy with a touch of pepper. I highly recommend it.

 

 

Enjoy your wine-shopping this weekend. The women of wine are heading to the Big Apple and some highly recommended wine bars and we will report back next week.

Cheers!

Ontario Wines: So Many More To Discover

I know Lis and I often go on about how much we love big bold reds from Italy but we also like to promote home-grown grapes and the wines they produce.  In truth there are so many wineries in the Niagara region I’m not sure how long it will take us to visit them all but we’re going to give it our best.

We’ve certainly been to the bigger ones, Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Colaneri Estate Winery, Chateau des Charmes, Stratus Vineyards, and several others located near the main strip but there’s so many more throughout the Niagara region and they’re yours to discover.

0One of my colleagues found out about our blog and said his wife worked for a winery called Calamus Estate Winery. Telling him I’d never heard of it he kindly brought me a selection of their wines to taste.   I started with the whites because even though reds are my passion, every wine deserves a chance…plus a nice light white is always great for summer sipping.

0-3The whites included a 2011 Pinot Gris, a 2011 Riesling and a 2010 Gewürztraminer.  Of the three my favourite was the Riesling, which was a light straw colour, tasted clean and crisp with a hint of peach and because of it’s acidity it went wonderfully with the cheese fondue we were having for dinner.

0-2The reds included a 2010 Cabernet Franc a 2008 Calamus Red.  Of the two I definitely gravitated towards the Calamus Red, which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Ruby red in colour is smelled of cherry, blackberry and vanilla and tasted delicious.  This one is definitely worth a trip down to the winery but you can also order online.

calamus_90_PandD_v2

Founded by Derek Saunders and his wife Pat Latin they first purchased 14 acres near Beamsville, Ontario and planted a 10 acre vineyard in 2000.  When the land was being cleared for planting fragments of rock from the original First Nation inhabitants were found and played a role in its naming as CALAMUS is Latin for the word arrow.  In 2001 they purchased a second property next to Ball’s Falls Conservation area and this is now home to the Calamus Estate Winery.

The old barn that now houses the tasting room is also home to a very cool feature, a Chronos Observatory.

BarnwLogoOften mistaken for a farm silo the observatory actually includes a working deep space telescope.  Located on the Niagara bench it’s just a short distance from the town of Jordan and this is definitely one of the areas we would like to explore more. It would make for an amazing venue in the evening, gazing at the stars while sipping the wines.

Is there a hidden treasure we should know about?  Send us a comment and we’ll add it to the post.

 

Weather and Wine

As we head into the colder weather most of us are switching from those cool refreshing summer whites to full-bodied reds.  When it’s cold outside we naturally want to hibernate by the fireside with a lovely glass of Cab or Chianti.

But just as the weather changes something in us, so does it affect each year’s vintage. As drought, frost and hail have ravaged Europe’s wine grape harvest, some vintners say this year will be the smallest in half a century.

Some wine makers like Cherie Spriggs of southern England’s Nyetimber Winery have gone so far as to forego the 2012 harvest.

A smaller harvest will definitely be costly to vintners and the approximately 2.5 million European families that make a living off the wine industry.  But just because the harvest is small doesn’t mean the vintage will be bad.  The up side to the bad weather creating a smaller harvest may mean the quality of the wine is better because the flavours are much more concentrated.

But while Europe is dealing with downsizing this year’s production other growers around the world are reporting very good seasons.  Ontario in particular harvested early and according to Grape Growers CEO Debbie Zimmerman, red grapes will be especially good this year, thanks to sweltering conditions promising 2012 will be a very good vintage indeed.

So if you aren’t already do so it’s time to support local. If you haven’t tried an Ontario wine lately check out the VQA section at your local LCBO and give something new a try or head down to Niagara to enjoy a winery tour and pick up something you might only find there.

 

One of my favourites lately was the 2010 Insieme appassimento style red from the Colaneri Winery. In this wine Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot have come “together” to create the perfect sipping fireside wine.  It has a beautiful combination of dried figs, cherry and leather on the nose and goes beautifully with everything chocolate (really – wine and chocolate, could there be a better pairing?). Sadly I just checked and saw this one was sold out but I’ve tried serveral wines from Colaneri and have to say you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a full bodied red.

What’s your favourite cold weather wine?

 

 

Wednesday Wine Picks

My Favourite Catalogue

I love when the new Vintages magazine comes out – it’s full of promise and possibilities.

Castello di Bossi  C. Berardenga Chianti Classico 2009 was my find for the weekend. I’ll be picking up another bottle this Saturday, and I highly suggest it, if you’re looking for a something big and flavourful.  James Suckling calls this a big juicy red – full bodied with round tannins and gave it a whopping 92 points. It really grabbed me and so did the price, at  $22.95, I  sipped and savoured my way to happiness.

And if you’re looking for a couple of nice whites here’s what I recommend:

Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2011from New Zealand, was a great surprise. Super crisp

and lively for a warm afternoon. Very aromatic with lots of citrus and grassy notes. And the price is equally mouth watering at $15.45.

The second has an equally attractive price point. The  O’Leary Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 produced with Brian Schmidt of Vineland Estates. Though not typically impressed by celebrity wine, this one is really good! Crisp, fresh with citrus notes, it is a terrific buy at $14.95. I picked up a bottle when I visited the winery last month, but it goes on sale at the LCBO Sept.16th.

Winemaker Brian Schmidt in the cellar at Vineland Estates
Photo courtesy of Shawn McCormick @uncorkOntario

Final weekend pick will have to involve a gorgeous trip to Niagara on the Lake because it is not available at the LCBO only at the winery? It is the Vineland EstatesPinot Meunier 2011.  I am not all too familiar with this varietal described as the  less  sibling to Pinot Noir. It is light bodied,strawberry aromas and simply delicious at $17.95.