Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Tops Amarone in U.S. Wine Competition

Judgement at Fortunes Rocks

Each year, a select group of committed wine drinkers gathers on the eastern Maine coast to swirl, sniff, slurp and savour at the Judgement at Fortunes Rocks. 

Ready, Set, Drink

The table is set. The teams are picked. The rules are simple. Each of us brings a bottle from a different country or region. This year offerings came from Italy, France, Portugal, California, and of course Canada.

The blind-tasting has evolved over the years. We  started off with wildly different wines, to give us a fighting chance.  We had the year when we got cocky and  featured all Cabernet Sauvignon ranging in price from $10 – $50 to find out if price really does matter. It did, sort of. We all identified the least expensive wine, but our favourite was the $30 special – which all of us needed to “sample” again… just to be sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is probably the one time of the week we all take seriously – well semi- seriously, during a beach week of fine wine, fine music and fine food.  The Judgement at Fortunes Rocks  is like taking the big exam after practicing a whole lot. There is even a trophy.

But this year, the Judgement at Fortunes Rocks 4.0 will be remembered as the year of Canada -Take that Mr. Trump.

 

 

 

Most of the teams nailed the Pinot Noir, a confidence builder because of its lighter colour.

Two teams identified wine #2  from Medoc. Bottle #3 – EVERY SINGLE TEAM – deemed it an obvious Amarone. This group should know – they have sampled many many bottles  together – and even toured and tasted at the Zenato winery north of Verona last year. 

And every single team got it wrong.

The best wine of the bunch was the Cabernet Franc from Vineland Estates. 

 

Vineland Estates Scores Big

Now wine snobs can sneer and call us a bunch of amateurs – we are. But the fact that all of us committed wine drinkers selected the Vineland Grand Reserve over Amarone under any circumstance is worth noting.

OK, this may not be quite on the level of the 1976 Judgement of Paris when a panel of the creme de la creme of French wine judges awarded two California wines – a  red and a white – top spots in a blind-tasting. The competition sent shock waves through the wine industry, opened the door to globalization,  and even inspired the film “Bottleshock”.   

VQA wines have come into their own.  It’s never been a better time to buy local. Our wines have lost the asterisk, that old descriptor of “that’s really good for a Canadian wine.”

Wine makers in the Niagara region are making outstanding wines worth savouring. Period.

And for the winner and the losers of the Judgement at Fortunes Rocks 4.0 …. we’ll just keep practicing.

Cheers!

Wine, Women & Song

In August we were invited to bring our husbands on a wine tour organized by Ange Aiello of iYellow Wine Club.  Even though we’ve been down to Niagara many times who were we to turn down such a lovely invitation.  Having never met Ange and not knowing anything about iYellow Wine Club we weren’t really sure what to expect.  We figured there would be a bunch of couples around our own age and were quite surprised to find most of those on the tour were women around the age of 30.

We had no idea that demographic had such a great interest in wine but soon realised even if they didn’t know anything they wanted to learn and they had a definite interest in FUN.

Ange did an amazing job of making everyone feel welcome and a part of the group.  She was extremely informative about everything to do with wine and the vineyards we were planning to visit, without sounding like a wine snob.  She kept us entertained, had the bus singing along to the music she played and kept everyone well fed with a variety of snacks that included everything from candy, to fruit and baked goods.

Sampling some bubbly at Chateau des Charmes

We visited 3 wineries that day, Southbrook Vineyards, Chateau des Charmes and Vineland Estates even enjoying a delicious lunch at Southbrook.  It seemed everyone enjoyed themselves and the wine tastings with most people returning home with a good selection of Niagara wines.Membership is free and not only does iyellow wine club offer tours, but classes and wine events. They have over 10,000 members and it’s a great way to meet other wine lovers.  Ange has kindly offered a great discount (15%) to any of our readers so we wanted to let you all know about it.

You can now sign up for their Fall Wine Tour lineup taking place in September and October.  On each of the 4 tour dates they’ll be visiting 3 different wineries and along with sipping amazing wines, you’ll be able to witness the harvest in action and take photos of the beautiful fall colours – so these are tours not to be missed.

Here’s a list of the wineries for each date:

Sept 22: Henry of Pelham, Jackson Triggs, Chateau des Charmes
Sept 29: Flat Rock Cellars, Inniskillin, Vineland Estates
Oct 13: Tawse Winery, Pillitteri, Trius Wines @ Hillebrand
Oct 20: Reif Estates, Southbrook Vineyards, Peninsula Ridge

In order to get your 15% discount, log onto the iYellow website (www.iyellowwineclub.com) and access the tickets through the Wine Tours tab. When you have selected your tour date and are ready to purchase your tickets you will be prompted to enter the promo code (women15).

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.