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Tripel header

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New Lang Syne 2017, Extra Strong Beer, Beau’s (MSRP: $16.00)
A limited-release Belgian-style Tripel, number 59 in the brewery’s Wild Oats series. Ingredients: local spring water, organic barley malts (Pilsner, acidulated, carafoam), organic cane sugar, organic hops (Strisselspalt, perle, magnum), yeast. A portion was brewed during the summer and aged in Pinot Gris barrels for four months. In the fall, the aged ale was blended with freshly brewed batches. Initial fermentation was with Belgian strong ale yeast; champagne yeast was added on bottling to create natural carbonation. 9% ABV. IBUs: 33. Original gravity: 19° P. Final gravity: 3.4° P.

Impressive packaging: a sleek, heavy bottle with bold, multi-coloured lettering, a long neck runner that bears the vintage, a champagne cork and cage and a tag listing, among other things, the batch and bottle number and the bottling date. My sample – no. 3395 from batch no. 6479 – was bottled on August 28, 2017. I tasted the beer with two friends, one of whom is a serious amateur brewer and has done a tour of Belgian breweries for a national magazine.

Hazy amber-bronze in the glass, with ample, long-lasting, rocky white foam (“can’t believe the head,” notes the brewer).

Appealing, complex nose: spicy and malty with notes of apple, butterscotch, “coriander seed” and wheat berries. “You get the esters but they’re spicy, not banana,” though a touch of dried banana does eventually appear.

The first sip prompts an “Oh, that’s nice” and indeed it is. So smooth and creamy (“the texture may be the most remarkable thing about it”) yet also deeply hoppy. There’s great complexity of flavour, an almost fruity (“pineapple juice”) maltiness and an undercurrent of sourish acidity. The hops kick in on mid-palate and make their presence felt, even to the point where one of the other tasters says the “bitterness masks so much.” A woody “barrel character” – a faint smoky overtone – appears on appears on the transition to the finish but there’s no clear line between where the bitterness stops and the tannins start. Finishes long with “prickly bitters, especially on the aftertaste.”

The bottom line: a fine, imposing, gastronomic ale that, while enjoyable now (provided you’re not allergic to hops), will surely benefit from spending a few months to a couple of years in a cool, dark place. (Buy again? “Yes.” “A bottle or two to cellar.” For sure.)

What would you serve with it? Cheese. “Fried chicken and cornbread.” I also like the brewery’s suggestion of blackened salmon. Oddly enough, a piece of dark chocolate studded with toffee malt followed by a swig of the ale didn’t clash and completely tamed the hoppiness, so maybe Beau’s suggested pairing of pineapple upside-down cake isn’t as off the mark as it seems.

Released on November 9, 2017. A number of stores in Montreal and Quebec stock Beau’s products (see map) and some are reportedly carrying the New Lang Syne.

Disclaimer: The brewery provided this sample for review purposes with the understanding that I would be free to critique it however I saw fit.

Update (2017-11-27): After some searching and reaching out to Beau’s, I finally found bottles at Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec (Jean Talon Market) and at Dépanneur Peluso Beaubien (though oddly not at the original Rachel Street Peluso), where it goes for a heafty $19.99 a bottle.

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Written by carswell

November 20, 2017 at 10:17

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

A global quartet of organic Pinot Noirs

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Patagonia 2015, Pinot Noir, Barda, Bodega Chacra ($29.65, 11517515)
Located in the Rio Negro region of northern Patagonia, the estate was founded by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the grandson of the creator of Sassacaia. All its vines are ungrafted and biodynamically farmed. 100% Pinot Noir from the estate’s youngest vines, planted in 1990. Low-temperature fermentation with indigenous yeasts took place in cement tanks. Matured 10 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve et Sélection/Trialto.
Classic nose of red berries, spice and a hint of vanilla caramel. Fruit forward but medium-bodied and balanced, with bright acidity, light tannins and a raw youthful astringency on the strong finish. Not what you’d call deep but easy enough to drink and something of a crowd-pleaser. (Buy again? If in the mood for a civilized New World Pinot, sure.)

Niagara Peninsula 2012, Pinot Noir, Réserve du Domaine, Domaine Queylus ($47.25, 12456494)
The estate is owned by a consortium of Quebecers (including Champlain Charest) and managed by Thomas Bachelder, who also serves as head winemaker. 100% organically farmed Pinot Noir from the Twenty Mile Bench and Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellations. The grapes were picked by hand, sorted and destemmed but not crushed. A short cold maceration was followed by fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The fermented wine stayed on its skins for several days, then was pressed. Matured 16 to 20 months in French old barrels, a third of which were new. 5,300 bottles made. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins Philippe Dandurand.
Smoke and sweat then sandalwood with fruit and oak in the background. The palate is a suave mix of rich fruit, moderate tannins, sleek acidity and a minerally/tarry depth. Unfortunately, the oak becomes obvious on the finish, masking the beautiful fruit and robbing the wine of refreshment. While another year or two in the bottle may rectify that, for now I prefer the 2014 Tradition bottling ($31.00, 13276137), even without taking the Réserve’s somewhat wacky QPR into account. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Willamette Valley 2014, Pinot Noir, Red Cap, Montinore Estate ($29.50, 13186609)
100% biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir from various vineyards. At least some of the manually harvested grapes were given a cold soak. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Spent ten months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, around 20% of which new. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Cranberry, black raspberry, spice and sawed wood. Medium-bodied. The texture is more velvety than silky, the fruit pure, the oak in the background. Round tannins frame while sleek acidity nips on the long finish. Not particularly deep but, hey, it’s under $30. Several in the group bought earlier vintages of this when it was a private import; opened last year, a 2011, like this a bit rustic in its youth, had evolved into a silky Pinot Noir with definite Burgundian qualities. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne 2015, Garance, Domaine Montanet-Thoden ($34.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The eight-hectare estate was founded in 1990 by Catherine Montanet (of Domaine de la Cadette) and Tom Thoden. The original vineyards were part of Cadette’s holdings that had a higher proportion of clay and thus produced distinctive wines. Cadette’s oenologist and Catherine’s son, Valentin, now makes the wines. 100% Pinot Noir from a organically farmed two-hectare plot of vines between 20 and 25 years old. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster fermentation with indigenous yeasts takes place in temperature-controlled wood vats, initially with punch-downs and later with pump-overs. After about two weeks, the wine is pressed and transferred to large barrels until fermentation is finished. Matured in used 228-litre barriques (80%) and 114-litre feuillettes (20%). Unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initially shy nose of red fruit and papier d’Arménie. Becomes more expressive with time in the glass, gaining red berry, leafmould, cola and spice notes. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, fluid and very dry. The tart red fruit is underlain with minerals, balanced by lithe tannins and lifting acidity. A faint, spicy bitterness lingers. Remarkably pure, this wine pushes all the Burgundy lover’s buttons, so it’s not surprising that local restaurateurs quickly snapped up the entire shipment. Accessible now but probably singing in one or two years. (Buy again? If only I could…)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 6 of 6

Spark plug

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Twenty-Mile Bench VQA 2014, Limestone Ridge Riesling, Spark, Tawse Winery ($24.00, 13216880)
100% Riesling from organically and biodynamically farmed vines in the Limestone Ridge vineyard parts of which were planted as far back as 1999. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. Fermented in stainless steel tanks. Sparkled using the traditional method. Residual sugar: 12 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Delaney Vins & Spiritueux.

tawse-spark-riesling-2014

Very pale gold with sunshine glints and a fine bead. Straightfoward nose of apple/pear, lemon zest, lees, pastry cream and pie crust. In the mouth, the mix of fruit (mostly sour apple) and chalk is buoyed by soft fine bubbles. A touch of residual sugar is checked by zingy acidity, which in turn is softened by the light sweetness. Dry and clean on the finish with a lingering briny note. Fresh and uncomplicated, this would make a fine aperitif or summer deck wine. Not exactly a hit with the assembled tasters but I found it bright, bracing, sui generis and enjoyable. (Buy again? Yes, especially at the LCBO, where it runs $20.95.)

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 6

Written by carswell

February 28, 2017 at 11:53

Red redemption

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Prince Edward County 2010, Pinot Noir, Diana Block, Grange of Prince Edward ($35.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir, the best lots from the Diana Block vineyard (the other lots go into the Estate and Select bottlings). The vines were planted in 2001 and 2002. Manually harvested and sorted. Alcoholic fermentation lasted 28 days. Matured 30 months in neutral French oak barrels. 13% ABV.
Showed some reductive funk at first, eliciting descriptors like “cherry-eucalyptus cough drops,” “putrescables after a couple of days” and “butterscotch” but soon comeing around. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and charming from the get-go. The cherry fruit is silky, the acidity bright, the tannins just firm enough. Minerals provide some depth. The barrels may be neutral but the oak seems a little laid-on, though not to the point of interfering with enjoyment. Could be longer. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Canada 2014, Pinot Noir, The Old Third ($43.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir from the estate’s organically farmed Closson Road vineyard in Prince Edward County. The vines were planted in the mid-2000s. Fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts, then racked into French oak barrels, a fraction of which were new, where it matured for about one year. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and minimally sulphured. 12.5% ABV.
Engaging nose of red berries, spice and clay. Unmistakably Pinot from the first sip but with a striking umami side. The fruit is ripe and rich, tethered by tartness, supported by lithe tannins, shot through with wood and limestone. The long finish brings a red peppery note one taster characterized as “paprika.” Simultaneously earthy and elegant, like a good Burgundy. Hasn’t quite coalesced though the in-glass evolution indicates it will. (Buy again? Yes.)

Prince Edward County 2014, Pinot Noir, County, Unfiltered, Norman Hardie ($45.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir. Given a six- to eight-day cold soak, then fermented seven days with indigenous yeasts and no more than two punch-downs a day. Macerated another week, more or less, with daily turning of the cap. Basket-pressed and transferred to French oak barrels for 10 months’ maturation. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, with a tiny shot of sulphur. 10.9% (!) ABV.
Red berries (strawberry above all), spice, cola, mowed field, hints of tar and cedar – classic, wot? Fresh sweet fruit, glowing acidity, soft tannins, some mineral earthiness, a subtle infusion of oak and the body of a welterweight about sum it up. The most obviously Pinot Noir of the quartet. Lovely if a bit facile, at least at this stage, and the price does give one pause. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Prince Edward County 2014, Pinot Noir, Quatres Anges, Lighthall ($35.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir from estate vineyards. Fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks and some French oak barrels. Matured on the lees in French oak barrels. And that is all the winery thinks you need to know… 12.5% ABV.
“Wet dog” and sap aromas give way to cherry with hints of smoke and spice. A delight in the mouth: medium-bodied and silky, fresh-fruited and brightly acidic with fine, structuring tannins and a surprising complexity involving discreet layers of minerals and oak and a faint green streak, more herbal than vegetal and most noticeable on the long, clean finish. Integrated, harmonious and ready to go. For drinking here and now, the winner of the quartet. (Buy again? Def.)

None of the wines was carafed beforehand and all showed better after 40 minutes in the glass. As usual, the tasting was double-blind to everyone except me and the “importer” (blind to us). Those in the dark quickly pegged the wines as Pinot Noir but were perplexed as to their origin, finally settling on “some fictional region between Loire and Jura and like, Jamaica.” Oddly, while there was some initial speculation about Oregon, no one suggested Prince Edward County and most were dumbfounded when the bottles were unveiled. All in all, a well-received flight and coming as quite the relief three weeks after the PEC Cab Franc and Zweigelt debacle.

MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

November 3, 2016 at 12:32

World class

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Golden Russet Cider 2014, Cuvée Yquelon, The Old Third ($21.00 at the winery)
Made from Golden Russet apples from an orchard near the winery. The fruit is hand picked and sorted. This being a traditional method sparkler, the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Manually riddled and disgorged. Closed with a cork. 9.5% ABV.
Yeasty nose with some lime and chalk though, surprisingly, only a hint of apple. The effervescence is subdued to the eye, soft and fine in the mouth. Dry and winey, with wafting flavours of underripe pear and “guava” (quoting another taster), ground ginger notes, bright but smooth acidity and a faint tannic bitterness on the sustained finish. Tasting double-blind, several at the table thought this was a wine, not a cider, and it’s easy to see why. (Buy again? Definitely.)

MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 1 of 6

Written by carswell

October 19, 2016 at 13:51

Kung Fu Guy and company

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Prince Edward County 2011, Zweigelt, Pasha’s Elixir, Norman Hardie ($23.00 at the winery)
Not a lot of technical info to be found for this wine. May be a special bottling for Fat Pasha restaurant in Toronto. May also be the last vintage. Possibly 100% Zweigelt. Manually harvested. Vinified with minimal intervention, extended maceration and indigenous yeasts. 10.9% ABV.
Clean nose: inky, spicy blackberry, distant mint and wood. Light- to medium-bodied. Dark fruited, with decent acidity, supple tannins and a mineral vein. The cedary overtones were surprising, the vinegary edge off-putting, though the wine did improve somewhat in the glass. I’d been looking forward to tasting this because, earlier this spring, a half bottle of Zweigelt – in all likelihood the County bottling – given by the winery to a friend for his helping with last fall’s harvest was effin’ delicious. But no one around the table was impressed by this and several were downright dismissive, one dubbing it “Kung Fu Guy: the Kung Fu Girl of red wines.” (Buy again? No.)

Niagara Peninsula 2014, Cabernet Franc, Unfiltered, Norman Hardie ($30.00 at the winery)
100% Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested. Given extended maceration on the skins with daily or more frequent pump-overs. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and regular punch-downs. 12.2% ABV.
Volatile acidity on the nose, along with whiffs of green herbs, dehydrated beef and, quoting other tasters, “roasted red peppers,” “beet like borscht” and “cheap makeup.” Medium-bodied, velvety textured. Decent fruit-acid balance but where are the tannins? Fair length. Meh. (Buy again? Only to check whether ours was an off bottle.)

Prince Edward County 2010, Cabernet Franc, Northfield, Grange of Prince Edward ($35.00 at the winery)
100% Cabernet Franc from 10-year-old estate vines. Manually picked and sorted. Primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks lasted 28 days. Matured 24 months in neutral French oak barrels. Residual sugar: 4 g/l. 13.5% ABV.
Odd nose that eventually settled into plum and beef sukiyaki. Medium-bodied with a lush texture. The core of sweet dark fruit is wrapped in wood and minerals, structured by sustained acidity and light but firm tannins. The fairly long finish brings faint spice and vegetal notes. Not only the best of the trio, it also improved considerably in the glass. (Buy again? Maybe.)

I’ve long felt that Cabernet Franc is the red grape Ontario does best but this flight has me reassessing that position. All three reds, especially the Hardie Cab Franc, were a big disappointment – foul-smelling, disjointed, simple – though the Grange did come around as it breathed. Still, as someone noted, why pay $30 or $35 for OK or worse when the Loire delivers juicy/minerallly deliciousness for $10 or $15 less or tremendous depth, complexity and refinement for about the same price.

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 6 of 8

Written by carswell

September 20, 2016 at 12:06