Saturday, January 9, 2016

2012 Vieni Estates Briganti (Ontario VQA)

I was delighted to recently find this wine on general list in the LCBO. Vieni Estates' Briganti is a three-way blend of Foch, Baco and De Chaunac—at one time, three of the most common red hybrid grapes in Ontario.

You just don't see much innovation in this category of wine anymore. Up to the turn of the millennium, there were quite a few very good varietal Fochs, and even a few varietal De Chaunacs. This release seems to represent something of a rebirth for the genre, and I couldn't be happier. Having tried Vieni's excellent Foch Vintage Reserve last month, I was excited to see this release from the same winery.

The wine is bottled in a smart, screw-top bottle. It pours with a saturated, deep garnet colour that fades to a cherry-garnet hue at the meniscus. Baco Noir seems to lead on the nose, with briny, plummy fruit and some complex rootsy notes that are typical of many wines with V. riparia lineage. On the palate, there is brisk, clean acidity and very good texture; the wine is dry and cleansing. On the mid-palate, I seem to get more of the Foch notes, but in general, no single grape dominates. The finish is dry and clean—this is a wine made for the dinner table. It is well balanced at 12.0% alc./vol.

For stylistic comparison to other wines—think of a brisk northern Italian red like Barbera.

My food pairings would be lasagna, ribs, and pizza. The wine has the acidity and heft to invigorate and refresh the palate.

My only suggestion would be to give this wine some time in oak: even just 6-8 months in American (or Canadian!) oak would be sufficient. Aged this way, it would be very reminiscent of the excellent Harrow Estates Baco that Carlo Negri used to make in the late 1990s.

This Vieni Estates Briganti is a very welcome addition to Ontario's winescape. It is $12.95 on general list in the Ontario VQA section of the LCBO.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Vieni Estates 2012 Foch Vintage Reserve (Ontario VQA)

Vieni 2012 Foch Vintage Reserve (Ontario VQA)
I was impressed to find this fine Ontario Foch at Vintages recently. Truth be told, it sort of flew over my radar, having been released this past summer.

The wine pours with a beautiful, and typical, saturated deep-garnet colour that fades to a "weathered sumac" black-mahogany hue at the meniscus. It opens up in the glass with wonderful, big, aromatic oak aromas, all framed by quality oak. Mingling with that, there are tart black currant and blue plum aromas. Aromatically, this reminds me of the many reserve Fochs that graced the Ontario wine scene right up to Y2K.

On the palate, there is tart, lithe acidity and a clean, dry, palate-cleansing texture that carries the fruit and oak aromas right across it — with power, lightness, and elegance, all at the same time. This is classic Ontario Foch.

The finish is dry and elegant, with replays of the same aromatic compounds.

It is a shame that so many excellent examples of varietal Mar├ęchal Foch have disappeared from the Ontario wine scene over the past decade. For this reason, it is a joy to find a winery producing a treat like this, from a grape that deserves much more respect in this part of the world for climatic suitability and innate quality characteristics.

The wine retails for less than $20 and is 14% alc./vol.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

2014 Peller Estates Baco Noir (Ontario VQA)

This is one of the best Bacos in Ontario: it is always fairly priced and done well.

Deep ruby-black with a ruby-magenta meniscus. Aromas of sweet plummy fruit and wild V. riparia grapiness. Mouth-filling, with bright, tense acidity and great structure. 2014 wasn't a great vintage for reds in Ontario, but Baco and its other V. riparia-derived brethren typically manage to shine, despite such obstacles.

Invigorating, palate-enlivening mouth feel, coupled with a dash of balancing residual sweetness and typical diminutive tannins.

The finish is clean and lean, and it leaves your palate refreshed.

12% alc./vol. Screw cap closure. $11.95 on general list at the LCBO.

Friday, September 11, 2015

2014 No. 99 Wayne Gretzky Estates Baco Noir (VQA Ontario)

The Great One knows a great grape.

12.5% alc./vol. The wine pours with a deep scarlet-ruby hue and dense but translucent saturation. Superb, briny, plummy / V. riparia varietal Baco nose, with lively, tart red currant fruit.

Bright, refreshing tartness on the entry. Zingy, tight entry, with good focus and a firm backbone. The wine is, much like Barbera, a great palate cleanser. It would go superbly well with ribs, steak, pizza and any pasta-and-tomato-sauce combination. A natural match with any of these.

$15.95. Limited distribution at the LCBO.

Monday, September 7, 2015

2013 St. Julian Reserve Traminette (Lake Michigan Shore)

A wonderful white wine from Michigan. It pours with a clear, pale straw colour. 12% alc./vol. The nose has the typical spicy/rosewater nose of Gew├╝rztraminer, with a hint of the aromas typical of Riesling and Vidal—though this is varietal Traminette.

A bright, lemony acidity sweeps the palate, fanning out to reveal lemony, floral fruit and a balancing residual sweetness. There's lots of floral flavour in this wonderful Michigan wine. Crisp and off-dry, it works both as a standalone sipper and with food.

It went well with herbed, grilled chicken breast. A good buy, and a good representation of the Traminette grape.

Friday, May 30, 2014

2013 Peller Estate Baco Noir (Ontario VQA)

The 2013 Peller Estate Baco Noir pours with a deep, dark garnet core that turns bright ruby at the meniscus.

The bouquet shows fantastic aromas of plums, prunes and brackish, wild, Vitis riparia. The texture has a bright, clean, crisp, invigorating and tart entry with tart blue plum flavours that fan across the palate. There's excellent fruitiness.

The texture is warm, balanced, clean and cleansing, with acidity leading and tannin playing back-up.

The finish is crisp all the way across the palate, with a clean and bright personality. There's prune jam and tartness on the finish.

This Baco has 12.5% alc./vol. It costs $10.95 and can be found on regular list at the LCBO. It's bottled with a screwcap closure.

An excellent, clean Baco...at an exemplary price!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

2010 Frogpond Farm Organic W‌inery Chambourcin (Ontario VQA)

Varietal Chambourcin is rare in Ontario - so when this wine caught my eye recently, I knew that I just had to give it a try. Not only is it one of the few examples of this variety in Ontario, but the wine is also organic - always a good thing.

The wine pours with a beautiful, clear dark ruby colour; it is translucent yet has a dark tone all the same. The nose is very light; just some red currant and possibly some light cherry fruit. I pick up no oak on the nose at all; a pity, as I think that this wine would have benefited immensely from some oak aging.

On the entry, the Chambourcin is light and tart with brisk yet well-apportioned acidity. It's quite palate-cleansing, much like its other hybrid cousins (e.g. Baco and Foch - though Baco tends to be quite a bit more tart). The mid-palate is mildly warm (12.4% alc./vol.), acid-driven and cleansing. The finish is light and short.

If you were to compare this to a vinifera wine, Barbera or Chianti would be fair benchmarks.

I do think that this wine would have benefited from 8-10 months of oak contact - even if it meant using oak chips instead of barrels. The oak vanillins would add a welcome extra dimension to the whole package.

Even so, I am delighted to have discovered this wine. It will be on my "watch for" list from now on.

It retails for $14 at the LCBO.