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Ontario’s red grape?

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Niagara Peninsula 2015, Cabernet Franc, Sans Soufre, Norman Hardie ($35.00 at the winery)
100% Cabernet Franc from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Fully destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in one-ton fermenters. Pressed in a basket press. Matured 10 months in 225-litre French oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 12.5% ABV.
Entertaining nose: a mix of dark fruit (cherry, blackberry) and umami (meat, mushroom) that prompts peanut gallery descriptors like “floral,” “spices,”“earthy,” “kelp” and “creosote.” Medium-bodied and fluid. Seems sweet on entry but turns appetizingly dry. Full of crunchy ripe fruit framed by soft tannins and enlivened by a stream of acidity. The complex of flavours includes minerals and herbal notes but absolutely no greenness. Finishes long and clean. So fresh, so drinkable. Enjoyable now and over the next two or three years if not longer. (Buy again? Yes.)

Canada 2015, Cabernet Franc, The Old Third ($55.00 at the winery, around $34 on preorder)
100% Cabernet Franc from the estate’s organically farmed Closson Road terrace vineyard in Prince Edward County. Fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts, then racked into French oak barrels, where it matured for about a year and a half. Unfiltered, unfined and minimally sulphured. Bottled in July 2017. 12.5% ABV.
Raspberry and black currants along with “black tea,” “pencil shavings,” “nut cake” and “prune.” Richer, rounder and denser than its flightmate, velour to Hardie’s satin. The ripe fruit is structured by smooth tannins and smooth acidity. Balanced, layered, long and full of potential: a complete wine. If there’s an issue now, it’s that the wine is a bit monolithic and the oak a little too obvious – nothing four or five years in the cellar won’t take care of. Late spring frost made 2015 a difficult vintage for many Prince Edward County producers though not for The Old Third and that’s totally apparent here. (Buy again? Yes, especially at the preorder price.)

World-class wines like these make a convincing argument that Cabernet Franc is Ontario’s red grape.

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

November 14, 2017 at 12:39

2 Responses

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  1. Love that Norman Hardie No Sulfite Cab Franc, excellent review. I had the chance to taste it this summer at the winery and Norm (he said ‘My father’s M. Hardie, please call me Norm”) was telling me this is the first vintage of this wine. Based on this wine’s quality, I hope it’s not the last.
    I’ve also found that I preferred the cuvées which were 100% from PEC, vs the ones that were assembled with fruit from PEC and Niagara. I understand that Norman does it whenever there’s a problem with the quantity or quality of the harvest in PEC, but I find that the pencil lead minerality that I often enjoy in PEC pinots is less apparent when the fruit is blended with fruit from Niagara. An easy way to know if the fruit was blended is if it says ‘Prince Edward County’ on the label, it means the grapes all come from PEC. Other highlights from my visit have been Stanners and The Old Third.
    Great blog by the way Carswell, I’ve been reading it for the last couple of years and the reviews are concise and very well written. I would love to join your group for a tasting one day if outsiders are allowed once in a while. Cheers !

    Eric Laframboise

    November 16, 2017 at 13:32

    • Thanks for the comment and the kind words, Eric. During our mini-tour of PEC last summer (I hope to post a report with tasting notes before too long), several of the eight wineries we visited said they’d been forced to bring in fruit from outside the county due to the damage they’d suffered in late May’s hard frost. The Old Third’s microclimate meant they were able to dodge the bullet. However, they were more the exception than the rule. Most of the bottles made with non-County grapes were labelled with the Ontario designation. All The Old Third’s wines are labelled only as made in Canada, reportedly due to politics at the regulatory level. We missed Stanners but will try to visit it next time around.

      I, too, hope the Hardie “sans soufre” bottlings are made in future vintages. The Chardonnay was quite good and the Cab Franc excellent.


      November 16, 2017 at 16:25

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