Niagara part 2

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Last time (which was a while ago now!) I only talked about some of the wineries we visited on our Niagara trip. There were too many for one post. I would also like to emphasize that I was working while there as well!

After my meetings however, we did sneak off to a few more places. Colaneri was somewhere I had never heard of, but was also recommended by the people at Vineland. It is a newer vineyard, and have only been producing wine in the last 4-5 years. They are putting a lot of time and attention into their property and it was really gorgeous. The exterior looks like an oasis of an Italian Villa in a sea of grapevines. The people working there were lovely, very friendly. This winery is very much a family affair, with two brothers having married two sisters, and all of the different wines they produce reflects that family spirit. All of the labels are intricately illustrated, telling a story about a different family member. The stories were quite interesting (although some seemed a bit personal for putting on a wine label, but that might be just me). Also, the wine was unexpected and in a good way! All of their wines have some dried grapes included in the fermentation process, and some are made with 100% dried grapes. As a result, there are some interesting flavours. I really enjoyed their Cabernet Franc (it has 50% dried grapes), it was very tasty, full bodied, and had some rich flavours of dark red fruit, raisins, and even a hint of vanilla. So good! We also ended up taking home a bottle of their Pinot Grigio, which was light and refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day. It’s too bad we haven’t seen these wines in the LCBO, but I did see a Riesling of theirs on a menu at a restaurant lately, so it is nice to know they are around – and there’s always shopping online!

The day we left the region to return home, I was on site at Niagara College during the day for a meeting. A professor there was part of our group and raved about their Teaching Brewery and Winery. Luckily I got to check out both (briefly) before hitting the road for our five hour drive. Both the brewery and winery produce wine and beer entirely by students. The brewery encourages experimentation and students can brew small batches using a variety of ingredients or styles.  They also offer a more regular collection called the “Brewmasters” collection.  You can try samples at the brewery and they sell bottles and refillable growlers. I bought a bottle of the Brewmaster IPA after tasting it, and I was a big fan, as I am of many IPA’s. Crisp, hoppy, and refreshing.

Our final stop was the teaching winery. Here we noticed a variety of different labels. The best wine of the vintage (the wines are graded by a wine writer!) has the honour of earning the “Dean’s List” label, complete with tasting notes and their grade on the label. What an amazing honour for that talented student! We brought home a Dean’s List Cabernet Franc (apparently that was our preferred grape of the trip!) and it’s still here, just waiting to be opened up. Those students worked hard to make that wine, I think we’ll save it for a special occasion.

Overall, we brought home a lot of souvenirs to commemorate a fun and very fast trip. Every time we open a new bottle, it’s a nice chance to reminisce, and think about the great memories we shared. As the supply starts to dwindle, I start thinking about where we should go next!

~JM

 

Speed tasting through Niagara

Summer has been a whirlwind so far. Getting engaged in California, wine tasting in the both Napa and the Niagara region, cottage weekends in the Georigan Bay Area, and a girls’ getaway to Mont-Tremblant. It’s now the beginning of August and I’m still thinking about our time a few weeks ago in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the surrounding area, even through it was more like speed dating with tons packed into just 48 hours. If speed dating could be compared to wine tasting…

I had looked at the Wine Country Ontario travel guide and highlighted a few places along the drive to our hotel to check out. Then we looked up the places we have already been to that we wanted to revisit.

We’ve done tours before to see how wine is made, and although I love those, our main goal for this very short trip was to find and try great wine that we can’t buy at LCBO or that we’ve been curious about.

One of our stops was at Vineland, as we noticed the wine options served at our wedding reception venue next year were all from this winery. We wanted to see firsthand what they had to offer. We had a great experience there from a very knowledgeable staff person (I really wish I remembered her name!), and tasted a wide variety of their wines. Among the standouts that we bought were a Pinot Meunier – think of an even lighter Pinot Noir – which our wine expert friend highly recommended for someone new to enjoying reds, such as my fiancé. It is perfect for summertime, as often reds can be less refreshing. We also bought a Cabernet Franc from their Reserve series which we will save for a special occasion. Vineland has some great presence in LCBO and Ottawa restaurants so we left knowing we would be able to find these great options once back home. And we are looking forward to drinking some at our wedding next year!

One wine we won’t find in many (if any, currently) Ottawa restaurants is from DiProfio. ‘The Kitchen Zinc’ is named for both the blend of various grapes used as well as the beautiful zinc bar you can belly up to in their tasting room. We had visited this family-owned winery last year on a tour and came back specifically to buy more of the Kitchen Zinc as well as their Gamay Rosé, which is pretty perfect with thanksgiving turkey if you ask me. Another highlight of this visit? The owner remembered me due to my red hair. I guess it pays to stand out sometimes! We really hope to see these wines on restaurant menus soon.

The other spot we took a quick stop into was recommended from Vineland. Kacaba was somewhere I had not heard of but we were not disappointed. We ended up walking away with a Pinot Noir that was so good to share with a friend visiting for dinner last weekend. It was light and fruity with a bit of a spicy note. We also purchased a Cabernet Sauvignon that we will probably save for a steak night.

To wrap up our first day (yes, this was all on our way into town!) we had dinner at Strewn. I had been looking online and read about their restaurant Terroir La Cachette. I would highly recommend the pizza here at the restaurant. They are simple, FULL of flavor, and located in a beautiful setting (although you can’t go wrong in this entire region, I’m sure). To accompany our pizzas we had some of the Strewn Two Vines Cabernet-Merlot which complemented our food well and is a great value for the price point. Also, it’s available at the LCBO!

After a very full day, it was time to relax back at our hotel and get ready for another day full of meetings for me but hopefully a few more wines to try. We were happy to have packed so much into the first day of our visit but we’re looking forward to another great day!

~JM

Don’t be an amateur!

It’s been a fun but busy week, with travel to the Niagara region and back for a meeting and some fun. We visited 5 wineries and had some great meals! When putting away our treasures (11 bottles! and some mustard) from wine country, I realized that one bottle we had bought at Lailey (a 2009 Meritage)  we had also bought last September when in Niagara-on-the-lake for vacation and still had it. I decided it was time to open the older one as now I had another one to save for a rainy day.

After opening the bottle I’d been saving for almost a year, I noticed the cork was stained and a bit shrunken. I got a bit nervous and disappointed but still poured a glass. I had hope, faint hope it might be ok!

The colour looked fine but I took a few sniffs. Something wasn’t right. Maybe I just forgot what it should smell like? I thought it smelled a bit woody, but not oaky, almost like wet wood, bordering on mildew. I was missing the nice deep fruit aroma, with spice and cedar that I thought I should be smelling. Once I took a sip, my fears were confirmed. The wine was corked. How disappointing. 😦

My optimistic fiancé had a great suggestion which was to open the new bottle and compare them. Once the new bottle was opened, the issues were so obvious, but I can appreciate how a casual wine drinker might not understand exactly if there’s something wrong, or if they just don’t like what they are tasting. We also don’t always have another bottle to directly compare.

See the photo below for differences in the cork.

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Now, here is where I admit my amateur mistake and offer a warning – store your wine properly!! This wine was recently laying down in a cabinet but for a while after we bought it, it had been standing upright – for long enough to dry out the cork apparently. This is fine if you’re going to drink the wine in the near future but not if you want to save it for any extended period of time. The cork protects the wine from oxidizing too quickly and if it dries out too much air will get in.

A side by side visual comparison of both wines in the glass didn’t show the issues obviously, but the “good”Lailey did have more fullness and legs on the glass than the “bad” Lailey. When tasting, “bad” Lailey almost had a fizzyness to it, and was acidic and thin. That wet wood taste was there as well. “Good” Lailey was just as good as I remembered: nice and full bodied, with a deep rich fruit aroma and tasted the same with a hint of cloves and the nice cedar note. I was so happy to have a good bottle!

Many of us don’t have the proper conditions to store wine, our homes are too warm, and our basements are too damp (or in my case, non-existent). If this is the case, please don’t spend your life savings on the perfect bottle meant to be drunk when your child graduates from high school. Buy what you can properly store! If you really want to start cellaring wine, rent or share storage space, bribe your parents or friends with a big house to build a cellar or just wait until you’ve got the right conditions because you don’t want to be disappointed. I only have the room to lay down about 12 bottles so the few we have that we really want to save are getting the prime spots and the rest we will just have to drink. I guess we’ll need to have some company over to help!

JM