Question: What is your favorite Ontario Riesling wine?
Answer: I have a long list of my favourite Rieslings from Ontario who now are producing some of the very best of that variety in the world. Save a soft spot for good value Thirty Bench (part of Andrew Peller) with low yield small lots from that sloping vineyard near Lake Ontario on the unique Beamsville Bench. Tried many over the years and all have shown most impressively and am still enjoying some delicious bottles from their 527 cases release of 2008 Triangle Vineyard at 11.3 alcohol. Also have some cherished bottles of 2011 Charles Baker 2011 Picone Vineyard Vinemount Ridge from Stratus at 11 degrees that is drinking beautifully. Pleased last month to be one of the judges at the Canadian Culinary Championships that awarded that wine from the 2014 vintage as Wine of the Year. Well deserved! Lots of excellent Ontario Riesling choices out there presently. Also like to follow the several wineries who planted back in the seventies the Riesling Clone 21B (called the Weis clone) both in Ontario & British Columbia now with mature vines and to compare their wines from the different regions. Fun exercise.
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Your scribe announced here on August 6 last year that the purchase of the Foxtrot Vineyards by the Douglas E. Barzelay American syndicate was a big quality endorsement for their pinot noir wines but also for other quality Naramata pinots and all of British Columbia. Everything since then has only reinforced this opinion including discussions with Doug from a Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin dinner at Clos Vougeot in Burgundy on October 6 to here again in Vancouver last week. The latest was a Valentine’s Day dinner at Boulevard during their quick visit before they returned to New York on a red-eye flight that late evening. The five of us including my wife Joan, Doug, Managing Director Nathan Todd, and winemaker Gustav Allander had a wonderful experience of wide ranging wine discussions with a focused wine tasting. Naturally the talented team of Executive Chef Alex Chen, Restaurant Chef Roger Ma and Manager Sommelier JP Potters added immensely to the enjoyment. So did a very special vibrant mineral bottle of 2010 Chablis 1er cru Chapelot from Domaine Francois Raveneau matched with their superb seafood dishes. Another celebration toast made was for the newly launched fascinating wine tome by Doug together with Allen D. Meadows of Burghound fame called “Burgundy Vintages – A History from 1845” over 583+ mesmerizing pages plus photos. Really admire some of the candid comment assessments made on the different vintages. A must buy at $79.99 on the burghoundbooks.com site and check out the interesting sample pages from the book already posted.
Also fascinating was a double blind tasting at the inception of this early dinner of 4 red wines the identity of which was only known by your scribe. Much studying and spitting was done with the results a very strong endorsement for the quality and aging ability of Foxtrot pinot noir based on these wines in very tough company. The wines served:
A. 2008 Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir Stewart Family Reserve. Only wine in screwcap. A legend already in the Okanagan and a consistent winner on release at the old Canadian Wine Awards and other wine competitions. Still fresh and fruity but lighter bodied with simpler layers. A bit reductive at first decanting but improved with airing in the glass. Holding well with good cherries. Nice elegance.
B. 2008 Foxtrot Pinot Noir. Young colour. Lovely complex stylish bouquet. So many layers of different flavours with a long spectacular finish. Impressive vibrant refreshing acidity knitting it all together. So refined with finesse and so aristocratic. Unique terroir! Cooler year of late picking from October 28. Mix of destemmed and whole cluster at low yields of 28 hl/ha cold macerated for 5 days all helps. This was the unanimous first choice of all of us – a clear winner – and an outstanding wine indeed! No rush to open this. Recommend trying to find it – or some other younger top vintage for your cellar.
C. 2009 Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode Domaine Pavelot. My favourite Savigny vineyard from that outstanding ripe fruit vintage. This was definitely darkest burly more concentrated with more alcohol. Popular style of big cherry liqueur fruit. Nice weight but not yet totally together. Should develop further even for this already forwardly year. Atypical vintage but has Burgundian styling nonetheless.
D. 2009 Foxtrot Pinot Noir. Paler rim than others. More herbal initially but developed an earthy forest floor creamy palate with velvet textures. Taste is better presently than the nose delivers. Canopy cover with earlier picking (October 9) at 33 hl/ha in this hotter vintage 2009 makes some difference in the style of the resulting wine. Still restrained and no rush to open. Should develop more.
Certainly another ringing endorsement for the quality of Foxtrot pinot noirs and how beautifully they are aging. Congrats to the whole team and their continuing success story.
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Question: Would appreciate your opinion of the best and worst years this decade for white & red Burgundy.
Answer: Still a work in progress that is difficult to generalize on because of all the recent vineyard variables due to frost, hail, erratic weather by sub-region, and short crops. However your scribe still prefers the even vintages in Chablis of 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. For the Cote d’Or proper am finding 2013 to be one of the least consistent vintages for both the reds and the whites (as are some of the 2015 & 2011 whites). My vote for the best vintages would go to the concentrated ripe 2015 reds (with that surprising 2010 vintage) and balanced vibrant 2014 whites (with rich smaller crop 2010 also impressive). Lots of exceptions can be made during this unusual decade to those simple vintage chart numbers. You need to do a more detailed intensive study by both producer and vineyard for each vintage to be more truly accurate – or taste the wine. Hope this helps.
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We all are experiencing the continuing supply and demand economics for Burgundy wines. There certainly are a lot more consumers (and especially collectors) chasing after and driving up the prices of a very limited amount of top rated small estate producers from Cote d’Or for Cote de Nuits & Cote de Beaune wines. This cherished region has expanded more recently also to include Chablis to the north – especially those Grand Cru and best Premier Cru vineyards from key producers – and to the south for some much improved treasures from Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais, and Cru Beaujolais. Often some wine critics and buyers tend to give more attention to the smaller estates and downplay somewhat the larger established ones – sort of like what has happened with the increased focus on grower Champagnes vs. the established big house labels. Certainly some of the long time negociants in Burgundy that also own substantial vineyards have developed well deserved excellent reputations for delivering very fine quality wines right across the board. Immediately coming to mind among others are such respected names as Bouchard Pere, Faiveley, Joseph Drouhin, Louis Jadot, and Louis Latour. However there are many more who are making fine tuning changes in their operations with a much better improved product worth checking out at still fair values. These thoughts all came back to me this past week at a trade tasting by the importer The Delf Group held in Vancouver on February 7, 2019 for Domaines Albert Bichot (founded in 1831) by their visiting knowledgeable Directrice Export Delphine de la Fouchardiere spotlighting 15 current releases from Village wines to Grand Cru. This followed on from an earlier tasting and dinner at their premises on the ring road in Beaune in early October of last year. They also have some interesting Climats worth discovering under their Domaine Long-Depaquit (Chablis), Domaine du Clos Frantin (Cote de Nuits including special Vosne-Romanee), Chateau Gris (Nuits-Saint-Georges), Domaine du Pavillon (Cote de Beaune), Domaine Adelie (Mercurey), and Domaine de Rochegres (Moulin-a-Vent). Enjoyed their fresh lively pure Cremant de Bourgogne a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and gamay grapes but also have a lovely blanc de blancs cremant from only chardonnay. The lower yields from 2015 reds showed characteristic ripe seductive fruit (and stems) with full rich rounder tannins styling while those of 2016 that survived the severe frosts had fresh vibrant mineral acidity. Impressed by the values at the lower end plus the usually southerly leaner Santenay Les Charmes is all spicy ripe raspberries in 2015. At the other end for the avid collector that 2016 Clos de La Roche is the true terroir full of potential.
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Question: Sid with so many forest fires in the Okanagan the last two decades I wondered which years you thought resulted in the smokiest wines?
Answer: Yes the wild forest fires in the Okanagan have been a continuing hot topic (pun intended) for the BC wine industry. I would offer my opinion that the worst vintages for smoke taint are 2003, 2015, and 2018. There were also lots of wild forest fires in 2009 but they started quite early on because of above average temperatures and lower precipitation resulting in fewer grape issues. Luckily the 2003 fires were localized more around the environs of the Cedar Creek Estate Winery. In 2015 the fires were much more widely spread out (including extensive Washington State damage) and your scribe has noticed in some of these now bottled wines an extra smokiness with a difference in the tannins particularly in the reds having extended skin contact during the fermentation. Caveat Emptor. 2018 was another bad season with multiple fires but it is still early days for these wines from that year and the final results are still to be assessed after bottling. Always be careful in your selection.
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