Sorry, LCBO, but I don’t get you. Such a lame-o release on the birthday of our great country July 1, with paltry few Canadian wines released to celebrate our big day, and presumably a few folks out there looking to party with local wines, and then suddenly in the middle of September, you drop the big one.
What up with that? I mean, the Sept. 17 issue of the Vintages mag, with pages and pages of features on Ontario wines and the biggest selection of local wines of the year — am I missing something? Is this some sort of key date for us in Ontario and Canada?
I want to be there during your obviously very detailed board meetings to listen in on the thinking behind your planning. When you get to, say, July 1, does anyone go: “Hey, that’s Canada Day, let’s flood the aisles with great Canadian wine. It’s what the people want, the people who pay for our largesse, the people we work for.” Well, no, of course not, that’s ridiculous.
Instead, as they count down the calendar, they go: “OK, what do we have for the week of Sept. 17? Why, there’s absolutely nothing going on, so let’s make it the biggest Ontario wine release of the year! Yes, perfect!”
Of course, what does it matter anyway? It’s not like the guy down the street is doing any better because there is no guy down the street. It’s the beauty of a monopoly — guilt-free decisions because there is no wrong decision if you are the only game in town.
For example (stay with me here, we’ll get to the wine), if the government decided it was going to force a shoe-store monopoly on its populous and came to the conclusion at a big swanky retreat where such decisions are made (pure speculation) that it would be so cool to put out a big display of Converse runners at all their stores on the first day of winter. No winter boots, no mukluks, just running shoes and sandals. Wouldn’t that be hilarious? lol.
It’s funny but not really funny. We just accept that it’s wrong and carry on like a monopoly is beyond reproach, beyond accountability.
For the record, the Canada Day Vintages release featured a cover story called: South Side Story: Wines of Southern France with 12 pages of spectacular photography and enticing bottles of French wine proudly displayed with glowing reviews and effusive praise for all.
But I’ve blathered on too long. Rant over.
On to the biggest release of local wines of the year (in the crucial middle of September time slot). And it’s a good one.
We’ll kick it off with a couple of big reds from Foreign Affair, slide into some Icewines and go from there.
Here are my recommendations for the release Saturday. We’ll call it the Canada Day release that never happened. Lol.
Foreign Affair Gran Q 2010 (only at flagship Vintages stores, $150, 93 points) — This is Foreign Affair owner Len Crispino’s dedication to the late Giuseppe Quintarelli, Valpolicella’s most famous maker of Amarone wines. Quintarelli is his hero, the one who inspired him most to follow his path in Niagara. He and his wife Marisa flew to Veneto unannounced to see if they could talk to Giuseppe about making Amarone wines in Canada. Crispino was granted a meeting with the winemaker but arrived a half hour late because the winery is unmarked along a secluded road. Once he found the home and winery of Giuseppe he was made to wait a half hour (the amount of time he was late) before he got a few words with the man. “He told me to ‘follow my dreams and you’ll get what you want,’ ” laughs Crispino. He left but not before asking for a photo, below, which Giuseppe insisted must be taken with his wife as well.
The Gran Q, made from 100% dried grapes, is one of the biggest wines I have tasted from Niagara, made from grapes (Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot) dried for an average 90 days. The wine was aged for 24-28 months in 80% new French oak. The nose is astonishing; gobs of black currant compote, rich, thick cassis, leather, graphite and sweet spices. The whopping 17.5% alc on the palate is backed up by luxurious, sweet and complex dark fruits, well-defined tannins and an array of spices that echo on the finish. Drink heartily, but serve with grilled red meat.
Foreign Affair Apologetic Red 2013 ($70, 92 points) — Winery owner Len Crispino released this wine (appropriately) on Canada Day as a humorous nod to Canadians and their apologetic nature. Called Apologetic with “sorry” written on the front label and “not sorry” written on the back label, Crispino believes it is time from Canadians to stop apologizing and start celebrating the “plethora of excellence” that is all around them. “Our dream and belief is that Canadians can compete with the rest of the world, and win,” he says.
Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2015 ($46 for 375 mL, 92 points) — Classic Vidal with an intense nose of peach, grapefruit, apricot, tropical fruits and wild honey. It has gorgeous texture, luxurious on the palate with rich, layered notes of apricot, peach, cream honey with balancing acidity and citrus on the finish.
Pondview Vidal Icewine 2014 ($20 for 200 mL, 91 points) —Peach, chunky marmalade, honey, apricot and subtle tropical bits on the nose of this likeable Icewine. It’s unctuous on the palate with golden honey sweetness along with sweet and creamy peach compote, citrus, poached pear and freshening acidity.
Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling NV ($35, 90 points) — This bubbly is non-vintage but it is primarily from the 2013 vintage. It spent 11 months on the lees and has a dosage from Steel Post Vineyard Riesling. It’s lovely on the nose with lime, mineral, apple and toasty-baked bread notes. It has a gentle mousse and a range of citrus, grapefruit, and apple on the palate that’s bolstered by minerality and searing acidity.
Cuddy by Tawse Chardonnay 2013 ($25, 90 points) — A nose of Bosc pear, apple, elegant oak spices and toasted vanilla. It is nicely put together on the palate with bright orchard fruit, lovely balancing spice and plenty of freshness through the finish.
Cuddy by Tawse Cabernet/Merlot 2013 ($25, 88 points) — A nose of cherry, raspberry, violets and subtle spice notes. It’s vibrant on the palate with rich red fruits, herbs and spice with moderate tannins and good acidity.
Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2014 ($25, 91 points) — This the first Baco Noir to be elevated to the estate’s top tier Family Reserve status. It has a rich and savoury nose of cassis, blueberry, bramble, licorice and bold spice notes. It’s ripe and big on the palate with a heady fruit profile of cassis, currants and blueberry with rich barrel spices and cracked black pepper corns.
Featherstone Canadian Oak Chardonnay 2014 ($22, 89 points) — Can’t really make a wine more “Canadian” than this. The oak comes from Brantford, the Chardonnay is all estate fruit and once the grapes are picked and pressed, the juice goes to barrel where it wild ferments in the vineyard and is aged in the Canadian oak barrels. The nose shows a rich broth of orchard fruits, oak spices, toasted vanilla and caramel. On the palate an array of pear and apple fruit is joined by buttery/spicy notes in a generous and rich style.
Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2014 ($17, 88 points) — An appealing nose of lime, fresh citrus, tangerine and minerals. It’s made in an off-dry style with lemon, a touch of peach and nectarine with a lime-zest finish.
Other Niagara wines being released, but not reviewed:
- 13th Street White Palette 2015 ($16)
- Megalomaniac Bubblehead Sparkling Rose ($30)
- Malivoire Gamay 2014 ($18)
- Marynissen Merlot 2013 ($17)
- Fielding Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 ($15)
- Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2013 ($29)
- Stoney Ridge Cranberry Wine 2011 ($17)
- Westcott Temperance Red 2014 ($20)
Other Ontario wines being released but not reviewed:
- Viewpointe Balance Pointe Cabernet/Merlot 2010 ($25)
- Smoke & Gamble Cabernet/Merlot 2012 ($20)
- Closson Chase K.J. Watson Vineyard Pinot Gris 2015 ($22)