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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Inniskillin Does It Again!

Inniskillin Winery
It never fails to amaze me that Inniskillin, Canada's first winery since Prohibition, keeps on appearing and reappearing with new and excellent products. One of the main reasons of course is the winemakers that Inniskillin has had during the years. Karl Kaiser "broke the mould" when he began his role as winemaker. Those that followed him kept up the fine tradition.
Bruce Nicholson is the most recent person to sit in the winemaker's chair----coming from British Columbia's rendition of Inniskillin where he was the subject of many awards and accolades.
Bruce did not waste any time putting his personal and talented touch to his new home.
Bruce began producing a series of wines to fit all tastes and pocketbooks. His "Core Series" continued the great tradition of Varietal and Reserve wines with products true to their character and the terroir of the area. His "Winemaker's Series" truly showed his talent for recognizing the premium characteristics of various vineyards and producing superior single vineyard and/or blended wines depending on the impression he got from each separately fermented lot.
One of his crowning achievements is his "Legacy Series" which bears his signature. Top varietals from the very best lots of the vintage are picked and carefully vinified. If one were to just believe in labels, the gold label on each bottle would say it all. I was amazed at the sheer concentration and depth of each Legacy I tasted.
East/West Series
As if the above was not enough, Bruce has come up with yet another series that has completely blown me away! The East/West Series features the best of Niagara blended with the best of the Okanagan. Having had the pleasure of visiting the area I know that great wine is made in the Okanagan. Bruce and Okanagan winemaker, Sandor Maver have joined together to produce some truly phenomenal wine. Here is my description of each wine!
2009 Riesling-Gewurztraminer
Nose: Strong spice introduces the Gewurztraminer on the nose with floral/citrus additions from the Riesling.
Palate: Nice mouth feel with refreshing acidity. White fruit/some peach with citrus on the finish.
2008 Merlot-Cabernet
Nose: Black Fruit (Cherry, Blackberry, Plum), pepper and clove spice with cocoa aromas.
Palate: Full and round in body, integrated with pleasant yet lingering tannins. Very lengthy finish indicating years of life! Open this wine at least four hours prior to drinking. It worth every extra minute of wait.
2008 Cabernet-Shiraz
Nose: Violet, cherry and pepper with strong cocoa nuances.
Palate: Full in body, pleasant mouth feel with excellent integration. Soft tannins can hold up to food challenges if needed. Again a long finish though not as powerful as the previous wine. In actual fact, I should have tasted this wine prior. Again I would recommend some breathing time prior to serving and thus releasing more complex aromas.

What can I say. I can only use this as an example of the quality that was tasted here. My next door neighbour came over and I served her a glass of the Cab-Shiraz. Next day she went to the nearest Wine Rack and purchased several bottles. Knowing that she is thrifty, I was amazed that she purchased three bottles at $17.95.
Ya can't beat that for a recommendation!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ontario Wines Just keep On Coming Part Three: By Chadsey's Cairns and Keint-He Wineries

By Chadsey's Cairns Winery And Vineyards
This property was purchased at the beginning of the 19th century by James Chadsey whose son William inherited it in 1819. The property fell into the hands of a William's son, Ira. Ira committed suicide in 1905. Ira's claim to fame were a series of stone cairns built on the property. Cairns were common in Ireland (his family's homeland) in those days and were thought to be built as a commemoration of one's life much as Eskimos build stone figures to show that they had visited a location. Ira's suicide and rather bizarre existence initiated many stories about him.
His being an agnostic gave rise to his possible belief in reincarnation. The story was told that he built the Cairns as a guide to his home when he was reincarnated------as a white horse.The story and legend has stuck and some of the cairns can still be found on the property.
The present owners are Richard Johnston and Vida Zainieriunas. Prior to purchasing the land, Richard was an MPP for Scarborough West (10 years), Chair of the Council of Regents (Governing body of Ontario's colleges), President of the First Nations Technical Institute and President of Centennial College. Vida has a private psychotherapy practice in PEC.
The Visit!
Tino, Denise and I visited the winery and grounds of this historic place. The cemetery near the front of the property added a note of austere yet historical credibility to the place. The boutique decor was consistent with the rest of the farm. The barn was filled with many amusements for people to view and must be also used as an entertainment facility.
Through the boutique one could see the vineyards planted in 1999 and beyond. I gazed at the expanse while I was on the deck just outside of the boutique.
The grounds around the winery had a both rustic flavour and unspoiled old country charm. There seemed to be something new at every corner. The personalities of Richard and Vida made the visit complete. At some point I want to come back and take a trip into the wood's interior to see the cairns which so far have evaded me.
The Wines
I only tasted one wine and that was the 2007 Chardonnay which was a very clean wine with tropical and white fruit flavours. The wine reflected the minerality of the soil in the fact that there was a pebble like backdrop to the fruit on my palate. The acidity reflected the cool nights of the area even in a warm year like 2007. I obtained this wine courtesy of Richard who took the time to travel to Whitby on his way to Toronto and give me the wine to use on a television program. I had the wine with a small pork roast with apple topping. The match was perfection.

Keint-He Winery And Vineyards
Named after an Iroquois village which existed in the area, the winery has also adopted the painting by Canadian artist Anne Hopkins (1838-1919) titled Canoes In A Fog, Lake Superior as the label on its wine bottles. The winery is a very modern and well situated place with three vineyards. The main thrust is to develop Burgundian style vineyards with varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier.
General Manager Bryan Rogers who has extensive experience in media and film production as well as two Masters degrees, met me in Whitby to discuss his wines as well as give me a bottle of his great unfiltered Pinot Noir to use on a television program.
With the seriousness that is being used in making sure that no stone remains unturned in order to produce quality product as well as the raw talent that seems to be part of the team, it seems clear that Keint-He will be a winery to be reckoned with as it develops.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Ontario Wines Just Keep On Coming:Part Three: The Grange Of Prince Edward County

A Family Business Through The Ages
Caroline Granger maintains the helm of this winery which has been a working farm for two hundred years. The main building is actual the original Loyalist barn built in 1826 and reflects the endurance and greatness of this new Designated Viticultural Area called Prince Edward County. The business has gone through various incarnations in those years, being a sawmill, dairy farm and chicken canning factory.
It is difficult not to notice the passion she feels about her winery which is also her home. Caroline's passion is extended not only to her winery and vineyards but also to the region she resides in as well as the Ontario wine industry in general. One would think that being the CEO and President (her father, Robert, is Chairperson) of a progressively functioning winery would be enough to keep anyone totally involved but true to her heritage and personality, this former model also fulfills key positions within such organizations as the Wine Council of Ontario, The Farm Credit Corporation and Canadian Vintners' Association.
It is always a pleasure to drive up to "The Grange"as most lovingly call it. I always seem to mistakenly take the first road to the farm and thus go by the family home. I can't help but feel a tinge of jealousy when I see the home, farm/winery and impeccably kept vineyards.
The Winery
The main building spoken about earlier houses both the tasting bar and wine cellar. They sufficed as the hayloft and dairy parlour respectively in the old days. Today they would not be recognizable. While I have not been in the basement (dairy parlour), the former hayloft is an amazing display of planning and workmanship that make even the most hardened eyes of any wine lover melt. Spacious with a large central bar area, the setting is comfort and pleasing.
The Vineyards
Outside is the same story. The vineyards are impeccably kept. The grounds are well cared for and there is even a little pond with many frogs thus accentuating the outdoor country atmosphere. The six vineyards are all unique and amount to approximately 60 acres with over 72,000 vines planted. This is big by Prince Edward County standards.
Grapes grown are: Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Any winery that is serious about staying in the business and successfully competing now must consider alternative uses for the grounds that house the winery and vineyards. Thus, at the Grange this is no different. Making use of the scenic landscape within its boundaries, the winery has offered a number of packages to the general public. Tours, both publicly and privately can range from the VIP of the winery to hiking tours. Special picnic packages are available and one cannot forget the special events-----some with special guest chefs such as Jamie Kennedy.
Late Arrival
Tino, Denise and I had spent much time at the other estates and were late in arriving at the Grange. Caroline was gracious enough to meet with us and share some of her wines with us.
I was driving so I made sure that I drank responsibly however, I have tasted several of the Grange's wines in the past and these are my notes.

The Grange Of Prince Edward County
The Grange Of Prince Edward County Trumpours Mill 2006 Chardonnay
Nose: Mellow, with white fruit evident (apple/pear), round and well integrated.
Palate: Rich with medium body. Nut and butter harmonize with ripe white fruit. Pleasant acidity with mineral almost pebble like taste as a background. In some ways almost Chablis like.

The Grange Of Prince Edward County Trumpours Mill 2007 Riesling
Nose: Floral hints with lemon citrus
Palate: Light in body, lemon citrus with a mineral almost steely touch to it. Crisp and clean on the finish.

The Grange Prince Edward County Trumpours Mill 2007 Pinot Gris
Nose: Floral hints with honey apricot and white fruit.
Palate: Apple and other white fruit, stone pebbles, some citrus acidity on finish
The Grange of Prince Edward County Gamay Noir 2006
Nose: Ripe red fruit with some herbal hints
Palate: Ripe red fruit mainly cherry, some tangyness in the background with a very clean and crisp acidity. Nice finish.
Grange Pinot Noir
I didn't take notes on this wine that I tasted at the winery but it's character was amazing. I still have it in my memory.
Nose: Rich, earthy mushroom, saddle leather, spice, cedar shavings
Palate: Round with medium to full body. Big for a Pinot with some essence of chocolate, spice, pleasant acidity and long finish.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Great Ontario Wines Just Keep On Coming Part Two: Norman Hardie Wines

Norman Hardie Wines
About Norman Hardie.
South African born Norman Hardie is well known for his wine making in various wine countries and regions such as: New Zealand, Oregon, Burgundy, California, South Africa and of course Ontario. His stint as the Sommelier and Restaurant Manager of the Four Seasons Hotels served to increase his appreciation and deepen his already extensive knowledge in the world of wine and food.
One would think that with all this behind him, he would be expected to pontificate and "put on airs" but in actuality, he comes across as a gentleman who is passionate about wine. In fact, he comes across as passionate about life itself. There is no bravado or showy mannerisms here. Norman Hardie is just what he comes across as in his writing-----a gentle, passionate and talented person who loves his trade and who wants to make great wine. His belief that Prince Edward County is reflected in the opening verse in his website!
"The wines are from France,
The limestone soil is in Southern Ontario
The taste and nose are from me-------"
The Visit
The day was warm as Tino, Denise and me drove up to Norman Hardie Wines to get a taste of what was becoming his legendary wines. The drive up revealed no major reception building but a huge, well kept 19th Century barn which served both as the winery, tasting room and boutique.We were lucky enough to "catch" Mr. Hardy before he was off to do his work. Norman dressed in a pair of work shorts and a sweat soaked shirt, was gracious enough to welcome us and take a few snapshots before departing. He handed us over to his associate winemaker, Ben Simmons.
Ben gave us a lesson on wine viticulture "Prince Edward County Style". In Prince Edward County, the very extreme climate makes it difficult to grow quality grape varieties without some specialization.
"Niagara, uses 'cool climate technology'. Here we use 'cold climate technology' ", Ben stated!
For one thing, the main trunks are grown very low to the ground which allows the vines to be "shored up" with dirt and hay during the winter months thus protecting them from the harsh effects of the weather. The grapes also grow close to the ground not far (about 20 centimetres) from the main trunk.
The vines were full of maturing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne which all had begun to change into their "mature" colour.
Went back to try the wines. The one I was most interested in was the Pinot Noir.
Critical Acclaim
Norman Hardie wines have been praised by such well known critics and wine writers as Jancis Robinson, Tony Aspler, David Lawrason and Christopher Watters. The raves are well earned.
It is nice to see nice people such as Norman Hardie coming out on top!

Wines Tasted

2007 County Pinot Noir (Norman Hardie and PEC grapes)
Nose: Light fruity nose of cherry and red berries. Some floral notes with a minrality I found typical in this area which of course reflects the abundant limestone.
Palate: Light to medium in body with lively red fruit flavours. Lively acidity and smooth tannin. The wine has a pleasant mouth feel and lasting finish

2007 Cuvee L Pinot Noir (Norman Hardie and Niagara Grapes)
This wine was tasted at a private residence and not at the winery.
Nose: Strong flavours of ripe red and black fruit with wood vanilla on the cusp but not overwhelmingly so. Some floral notes of violets and a hint of some pepper/anise spice.
Palate: Medium plus body with a very pleasant and smooth mouth feel. Cherry, plum and raspberry flavours give way to an almost prune development. Excellent tannin and structure. A truly treat Pinot that will develop over time.
N.B. The wine was kept in a cool cellar and took awhile to open up.