Newsletter #264 - Winning Isn't Everything

24 Sep 2015

MichaelPinkusWineReview Newsletter #264

            September 24, 2015

  • WineReview: Winning Isn't Everything

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New & Noteworthy Wines

  • Weekly Wine Video Series:  A Recap of The Week in Videos

  • Bi-Weekly OWR Updates:  Additional Articles and more

  • Wine Event Spotlight:  See What's Going on in Wine Country

WineReview:  Winning Isn't Everything

How’s this for industrious, I have a reader named Andy McCraw who decided to take all the winners from this year’s Wine Align National Wine Awards and put them into a spreadsheet, to see where his next trip to Ontario wineries would take him (and what to buy) – his conclusion “I’d go broke trying to get all these wines”.  At first, before I opened his spreadsheet endeavor, I thought he meant they were all expensive … then I opened the document ... it was 8 pages long – then I understood, he just couldn’t afford to buy them all.

I’m not sure you can say that Ontario is going through a Renaissance (which actually means re-birth) or a Golden Age or any other era-spanning term to describe what is going on here, the wine industry is just too young; but there really shouldn’t be any wonder as to why there has been such a glut of buying of wineries going on, Ontario is a hot commodity.  For some it might be all about Icewine, but for others it’s the range and breadth of wines to be found, and in particular Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Riesling (not necessarily in that order) … then of course there are the fringe grapes, the ones nobody would expect: Petit Verdot, Malbec, Sangiovese, Viognier, Chenin Blanc – grapes that truly have no business growing in Ontario and yet wine is being made.

One of the big surprises for many, including some winemakers, is the success of Syrah (formerly known as Shiraz) in Ontario’s cool climate … it seems that Ontario has finally given up trying to follow the Aussie model (and moniker), and has given in to its own style and expression of the grape – and it’s working out quite well.

Another surprise should really be no surprise at all: Gamay Noir – much maligned and poo-pooed as inferior, Gamay has the potential to be the golden boy of Ontario.  Gamay grows in good years, in mediocre years and in the ‘bad’ years – in the right hands, and treated with respect, this grape can deliver a really delicious wine.

The Breakdown …

As you probably would guess Niagara took the bulk of the awards, with the Lake Erie North Shore (LENS) scoring 7 and Prince Edward County (PEC) grabbing 32.  LENS’s seven included two Syrahs and two Merlots; the County, as one would expect, took 11 Chardonnays (a staple for them), but surprisingly only 4 Pinot Noirs, the rest was a mixed bag of varieties and blends.  As you could well imagine Niagara garnered six-and-a-half pages (out of 8) of awards, running the gamut of the usuals Chardonnay (23), Pinot Noir (14), Cabernet Franc (19) and Riesling (32) to more obscure varieties like Nebbiolo, Marsanne, Malbec and Viognier … but to get back to my two earlier highlighted varieties: Syrah took home 10 awards, while Gamay was just slightly behind with 9 … not bad for two grape varieties that are marginalized for different reasons in Niagara. To see all the awards from the original source click here.

The Take Away …

Once again Ontario fell short in comparison to British Columbia’s haul – who doubled the amount of awards taken by Ontario* (see the BC spreadsheet here, also cobbled together by Mr. McCraw), but as one Ontario winemaker once told me “fruit forward wins out over finesse every time” … meaning that on its own fruit forward wines stand out, but when matched with food it’s a totally different story and finesse kicks ass; because awards are all about tasting (with no food) it’s hard to truly make the comparison.  In the end Ontario has nothing to hang it’s head about … there are still excellent and awe-inspiring, and obviously, award-winning wines being made in this province.


*According to David Lawrason, principal at WineAlign, British Columbia enters double the wines of Ontario, so the awards reflect entry percentage.

Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  New & Noteworthy Wines

Bench Trial Wines 2010 Subpoena - $40.00 (O)
You’re two guys that get out of winemaking school and want to put your mark on the world of wine, what do you do?  You start your own label of course.  That’s exactly what friends Chris Fornasier and Adam Kern did, welcome to Bench Trial Wines – now before you ask, neither is a lawyer, but they know some. Their first truly impressive wine is this Subpoena, made from 100% Cabernet Franc aged in French (25% new), fermented naturally and allowed to age 3 years in bottle – and truth is it could go much longer.  Nose is cassis, blackberry and cocoa with some smoky notes for added character.  Palate is a touch on the tight side, but give it some time in either decanter or glass; rich, smoky, and mocha kick things off, then comes the raspberry, smoked cherry, pepper and black currant – and I am sure it is not done yet.  This wine is worth a sit in cellar, say 5-6 years, just to watch it mature.  As for Chris and Adam, I hope we hear more from these guys in the future.  Price: $40.00 – Rating: ****+

Big Head Wines 2012 Petit Verdot - $45.00 (W)
It says Petit Verdot on the label, but there is an element of Merlot (11%) in there to help soften the wine.  Now, 22 months in new oak might seem like it would overwhelm but instead aromas are plum, cherry jam and white pepper oriented, while on the palate there’s a juicy, jammy note with delicate pepper nuances, elegant red and black fruit along with balanced acidity … you’ll never notice the 15.7% alcohol that’ll hit you the longer you linger over the wine – but you will notice those fabulous flavours hitting your palate and it’ll be hard to stop sipping.  Price: $45.00 - Rating: **** ½

Hillebrand 2014 Gamay Noir, Trius - $20.00 (W)
For those of you who love Gamay we have a new / old player in town – it has been many years since we have seen a Gamay from the folks at Hillebrand and never in their Trius line-up … but once again we have something new and fun from the mind of head winemaker Craig McDonald: 70% of the wine was stainless steel aged, while the other 30% was given 6 months in barrel, giving the wine a little more oomph in the mouth.  The result is a wine that shows lots of black cherry on the nose while adding white pepper and hints of violet to that beautiful cherry fruit on the palate, ending with a lovely long finish. I had asked Craig about a potential Trius Gamay about a year ago – I guess the old saying “ask and ye shall receive” truly does fit in this instance. Chill for added enjoyment.  Price: $19.95 – Rating: ****+

Huff Estates 2012 Chardonnay, South Bay - $30.00 (W)
The County proves again it can deliver Chardonnay like nowhere else in Ontario.  This Huff Estates number comes from the hot 2012 vintage, but delivers on cool climate acidity and County-minerality backed by white fruit, creamy mid-palate textures along with spicy, buttery and almandine notes.  Price: $30.00 – Rating: ****

Keint-he 2012 Chardonnay, Fox Croft Vineyard - $25.00 (W)
You can take the winemaker out of Niagara, but you can’t take Niagara out of the winemaker. Ross Wise spent years in Niagara and still brings fruit from there to cobble some of Keint-he’s wine from.  This Fox Croft Vineyard number is a sensory delight with vanilla, butterscotch and praline almond butter and apple brown betty and that’s mainly just the nose – it’s just such a wonderfully robust wine to both sniff and sip … it’s a wine to be experienced not just drunk, but you’ll still want to do that too.  Price: $25.00 – Rating: ****+

Peller 2013 Andrew Peller Signature Sauvignon Blanc - $30.00 (W)
Here’s your white wine of the year at the 2015 Ontario Wine Awards … who woulda thunk it, a Sauvignon Blanc from Ontario would grab this honour.  But here Peller has obviously let the lees play a part.  There’s white flowers and  citrus pith flowing from start to finish – the palate also shows a presence with some weight and thickness, but the acidity cuts through to keep everything honest and on-track … there’s even some perceived sweetness upfront before the finish kicks in dry.  Price: $30.00 – Rating: ****+

Availability legend:  W (Winery) – L (LCBO/Vintages) –  OL (On-Line)

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The Weekly Wine Video Series: Local (Ontario); National (Across Canada) and International

The Weekly Wine Videos
Just as the name suggest … every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

Weekly Ontario Videos

Video #144 - Coyote's Run 2012 Dave Sheppard Cabernet Sauvignon (Niagara)
Video #145 - Casa Dea 2010 Reserve Chardonnay (Prince Edward County)

Weekly National & International Videos

Video #20 - Thorn-Clarke 2012 Shotfire Quartage (Australia)
Video #21 - Errazuriz 2012 Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

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Bi-Weekly OWR Updates Additional articles on the website and more

On the Road with the Grape Guy (blog)
(Trips, tours and tastings – join me as I review the highs, and sometimes, the lows)
Nobilo Lunch and Icon Tasting
Washington State Wines Dinner
Primium Familiae Vini Lunch
A Meeting with Paul Hobbs

Taste it Again / Lost & Found (blog):  the two blogs have merged
(Find out what happened to some favourites and to those that never were tasted) 
Taste it Again / Lost & Found: Tale of 2 Pinot Noirs

Uncorked Tonight (blog)
When it’s not an Ontario wine, here’s what I’m pulling out of the cellar
New Posts Added

Vintages Release (blog)
September 19, 2015 - Available Now
October 3, 2015 - Coming Soon

 GRAPE GUY EVENTS Spotlight: See What's Going on in Wine Country

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OntarioWineReview’s bi-weekly newsletter is devoted to the love, enjoyment and promotion of the wines of Ontario and the wineries that make them.

What can the Grape Guy do for you … Michael Pinkus (Grape Guy) provides a variety of wine related services that you might be interested in taking advantage of:  he gives lectures, leads seminars, conducts tastings, sets up tours; consults, selects and judges.  He also gives interviews, broadcasts, podcasts and writes.  Contact the Grape Guy if you require any of these services or have any questions.

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