Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The "Legacy" of Inniskillin Contnues!

A Canadian Icon!
There will be-----I am sure of this---no argument or doubt as to which winery has affected the role of Canadian more than Inniskillin (Niagara). I really believe that even the great Ziraldo and Kaiser did not really know what the ramifications were going to be when they took that, what must have been, very frightening risk in stepping out of the "box" and creating the new winery back in 1975. In some ways I can relate to that with ventures that I myself have began recently-------the "should I's" and "what if's" can deafen the mind especially at night when one wakes up early in the morn with only his mind and soul to keep him company.
To Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, creating a new direction must have been the edge of the world. They were going to go-----truly!--------"where no Canadian had gone before".
Keep in mind, that the term "boutique winery" was only invented after they took the plunge and where successful at it. Keep in mind that at that time there were great upheavals about to tackle the Canadian wine/business scene. Keep in mind that until then, only the big guys were in the wine industry. There was nothing to really guide these two icons of wine other than their dreams and guts!
Inniskillin was the first winery to be "founded" in close to 40 years. Hybrids (let alone Vinifera vines) were not really supposed to do well in the Ontario climate. The odds were stacked against them.
The risk not only paid off for them but also for Canada. The story behind the famous 1989 Icewine is now legendary. However let's not stop just at Icewine! Inniskillin under the guidance of the two founders surged ahead with its Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Cabernets, Merlots and has continued to do so every year.
Wine "Series"
Inniskillin came up with several series of wines which reflected a style and a standard of wine.
The "Varietal Series" accentuated the major Vinifera varieties, their fruit and grape characters.
The "Reserve Series" selected only the ripest and best bunches from premium vineyards thus producing more complex wines.
The "Winemaker's Series and Vineyard Series" were specially picked vineyards fermented separately by the winemaker and carefully chosen as to which would become either a single vineyard or blended to showcase his talents.
Finally, there was the "Founders Series" where in special years, only the best Chardonnays and Pinots would be used to carry on the tradition of Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser.
Legacy Series
Inniskillin Niagara introduced the Legacy Cabernet Franc 2007, and the Legacy Riesling 2008 of the new Legacy Series at a special luncheon held at the Loire Restaurant Toronto on Thursday February 4th. This new "signature tier" of top premium wines were determined by Winemaker Bruce Nicholson who will chose the most outstanding varietal of the vintage and produce a Legacy wine. He will hand select the best lots and carefully craft this into a very special, limited edition series. It is a legacy of the Winemaker’s artistry and the best expression of each vintage of the Niagara Peninsula.
Tasting Notes
Legacy Riesling: Nose: Floral Citrus, Peach on the onset with some spice and apricot levels showing as the wine remained in glass.
Palate: Very nice, silky mouth feel. Pleasant acidity that harmonizes well with the slight sweetness exhibited by the wine leaving a clean freshness. Same basic flavours as nose. Pleasant and lengthy finish of honey/citrus/peach.

Legacy Cabernet Franc: Nose: The nose seemed initially closed but the wine opened up and kept developing in glass. Observations were made of the currant, berry, vanilla wood nuances which evolved in the glass to later include black cherry and cedar.
Palate: The wine had great mouth feel with expressive tannins that were not overly dominant but indicated a potential to age. Raspberry, cherry, currant and smoke (some would say tobacco) with a finish of medium ripe blackberry.
General: Both wines (especially the Riesling could be enjoyed by either beginner or novice with the wave certainly being given to the Legacy Riesling. Great Label Design!!!!
The Legacy Riesling will more than reward its use as an aperitif but it will encompass food also especially a wide range of chicken, pork and even some spice dishes. Try it with smoked salmon! Well worth the price of $29.95. Available at the Winery but to be fair, should at least be in Vintages. Get it now as it will not last!
The Legacy Cabernet is almost a ditto for me and one that can be cellared. I would have it with grilled meat dishes and I am thinking particularly of Steak Florentine.
The Luncheon Menu
Braised Pork Belly with Seas Scallop. Preserved Plum, Grapefruit and Bean Sprout Salad.
Comment: Ideal match. The wines sweetness and acidity melded with the fat of the pork and lightness of the meal. The wine's sweet/acid nature also worked its magic with the combined Scallops and salad.
Main Course
Szechuan Peppercorn Dusted Ontario Venison, Rutabaga Maple Puree, Honey Mushroom, Rosehip jus.
Comment : The venison was phenomenal with the wine flavours. Neither the wine nor the venison overwhelmed. The sweetness of the puree and mushroom added to the complexity of the venison and thus the wine, being powerful enough to stand up to the sweetness without dominating proved a nice match. This meal needed a young wine and the above was just the wine to do it.
Sadly I did not stay for dessert as I had another pressing engagement but I am sure that the 2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine which I have tasted and is listed in a previous article would have been superb with the Poached Rear Belle Helene, Chocolate Sauce, Almond Cake (a match made in heaven) and Vanilla Ice Cream.
Bruce Nicholson, you did a fine job but---hey---why should I be surprised. Look what you did in the Okanagan. The surprise would have been if the wine wasn't fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, it goes without saying that Inniskillin has become the legend and continues to do legendary things. Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser can be rest assured that their legacy will continue on as long as winemakers such as Bruce Nicholson are around!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Winewriters' Circle Of Canada's Annual Dinner Was Fun!

Sette Mezzo
Monday's are not the times that would normally be chosen for an annual dinner---especially for an illustrious group of professionals such as the Wine Writers Circle Of Canada. However, considering that just getting any number of these individuals together at any one time is considered as a massive feat, Monday's event was a huge success both in attendance and gastronomic delight.
Darlene and I showed up on time (a feat in itself considering the locale was in West End of Toronto on a Monday night!). Sette Mezzo proved to be a charming spot for a dinner. The atmosphere was warm, friendly and immediately pleasing. A pleasant aroma of the pleasures to come via the food whetted the appetite as quickly as we entered the spot.
Konrad Ejbich had already given us a greeting as we made our way to the entrance and it was nice to be further welcomed by the likes of Tony Aspler, Sheila Puritt, Michael Pinkus and Carolyn Evans-Hammond. Carolyn just released her new book "Good, Better, Best Wines" which I found excellent for both novice and advanced oenophile alike. I'll be reviewing it shortly in another blog.
My friend Zolton Szabo, who I envy not only for his amazing life around the globe but also for his vast knowledge introduced us to his lovely bride. Indeed he is blessed!
Later on my good pal Alex Eberspaecher with lovely wife Judy. With them was the person whom I have dubbed "Godfather of Canadian Wine": Chef Jacques Marie. Any who have read his books about the wine regions of the world will know what I am talking about!
Judy has also published a great book called "Totally Scallops---not just another cookbook" which I found absolutely super both for its photography---much by Judy but its background information. This also will be reviewed later on in another blog. The wine flowed freely and the food was excellent.
Dinner Menu
The dinner started with an excellent Antipasto plate. I especially liked the cacciatore sausage which went well with my Bernat Syrah.
First Course
Risotto with wild mushrooms and truffle oil, and Penne Gnocchi.
Main Course
Darlene had the Roast Chicken Supreme with rosemary red wine reduction veg and potato
I had the Rainbow Trout with tomato olive caper salsa, veg and potato.
We both enjoyed the meal with Sheila Puritt's Rizzardi Amarone (though steak Florentine would have been superb with this wine and vice versa.
The Tirami su went especially well with some dessert wine that was brought by Alex Eberspaecher.
The event was a huge success and I would heartily recommend the Sette Mezzo for not only that intimate pleasure but also some phenomenal family fun and great gourmet food.