Saturday, January 11, 2014

New-Generation Cold-Climate Wines at Hoity Toity Cellars

In the autumn of 2013, I visited Hoity Toity Cellars, located near Mildmay, in Ontario's Bruce County. I had been interested in the winery for some time because they are growing some newer-generation hybrid grapes, such as: Louise Swenson, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris and Marquette.

The last time I had tried any of these wines was years ago - and in fact I had never tried Frontenac Gris before at all - so I was quite interested in learning more about the winery and these thoroughly modern wines. The new-generation hybrids are particularly interesting to study as they are enabling viticulture in parts of Canada where it had been limited or not practiced at all.

The 2011 Community Harvest (Frontenac) is the first straight Ontario Frontenac that I have ever tasted. Previously, I had only tasted one other Frontenac - grown in Minnesota - at a wine tasting in Michigan, in 2004.

The wine pours with a deep and dark ruby colour, with dense black-cherry highlights near the edge of the glass. It's a dark red wine, but is not inky in the way that the more common hybrids Baco and Foch can be.

Swirling brings out a very distinct candied-cherry nose - something that immediately reminds me of the aforementioned Minnesota-grown Frontenac. There are some minor rootsy hints in the nose as well. The acidity is much like that of Baco Noir: light, lithe and tart. On the entry, the acidity is immediately balanced by a touch of residual sweetness, but remains zingy and lively across the mid-palate. More candied cherry emerges there and is met by a fine-grained, light, tannic overlay. The mouthfeel is invigorating, tart and cleansing. At 12.1% alc./vol., there is just a slight warming aspect to the finish. The aftertaste is fruity and tangy.

This sort of lively, light, fruity texture seems to characterize varietal Frontenac. 

$16; purchased at the winery.

The 2011 Kicked Out of the Country Club (Marquette) is the first straight Ontario-grown Marquette that I have ever tasted. Marquette is a new-generation red hybrid out of Minnesota.

The wine pours with a deep scarlet-garnet colour that lightens to a beautiful deep ruby at the edges of the glass. Aromas of pin cherries and spicy oak on the nose, with a hint of raspberry. Crisp texture, with mouthwatering acidity and spicy oak replays that carry through to the mid-palate. At this point, there is a very pleasant overlay of grainy tannin, adding a most pleasant structural element to the wine. The bright cherry flavours re-emerge on the finish, and are wrapped up in another subtle wave of spicy French oak. 10.8% alc./vol.

$20; purchased at the winery. 

The 2012 Kicked Out of the Country Club (Marquette) pours with a black-magenta hue with deep-ruby highlights. Initially, some effervescence clings to the inside of the glass.

Aromas of candied cherry and some woodsy notes emerge from the bouquet, with hints of oak spice - an appealing bouquet. Good texture on the entry, with brisk, bright acidity, an overlay of firm tannin, and good warmth wrapping up the finish. More cherry flavours come in on the finish, and linger nicely as the finish fades.

This wine should be opened and decanted for a few hours to integrate. A very good, and promising, example of what Marquette can do in Ontario.

Disclaimer: I was given this bottle at the winery to review.

The 2012 Dusty White Glove (Frontenac Gris) was a new experience. I had never tried a wine made from Frontenac Gris before, due to its relative scarcity in Ontario. Frontenac Gris is a light-skinned mutation of the regular Frontenac grape. It may help to think of the relationship between the two varieties as akin to that between Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

The wine pours with a light, pale cantaloupe hue. Aromas of sweet pineapple, honeydew melon and peach emerge with swirling. There is a nice amount of effervescence on the inside of the glass as well.

This Frontenac Gris is great as an aperitif, but I am already thinking that it would go well with game bird (quail, pheasant) as it seems to have a certain heft despite its colour.

Pineapple flavours fan out across the palate, and the slight effervescence together with a balancing touch of residual sweetness, add a fine textural appeal. Clean, fruity and brisk on the finish. Very good.

$16; purchased at the winery.

Finally, a couple of cider notes. Although I dedicate this blog exclusively to hybrid grapes and their wines, I was also interested in the Hoity Toity ciders during my visit. They, too, are an interesting part of the winery's product line.

The Hoity Toity Cellars "Rusty Bling" Hard Cider, aptly named, has a rusty-copper colour with an orange-pink glint. It has a fine effervescence when poured and looks pretty and distinctive in the glass.

Although a fine aroma of Dolgo crab apples opens up on the nose, the acidity is not like that of Dolgo crabs but is actually tame and gentle on the palate. There is a welcome touch of crab apple tannin on the mid-palate, adding a lovely texture. The taste includes a bit of marmalade-like, orange-skin astringency on the mid-palate. That said, the cider isn't particularly sweet. At 7.2% alc./vol., there is a gentle warmth to the finish, which is clean and subtle.

Rusty Bling shows how tannic apples (in this case, crab apples) can help to create a cider with considerable structure. Rusty Bling works well with food: poultry or game birds would be a fine match.

$14; purchased at the winery.

The Hoity Toity Cellars "66 Pickup" Hard Cider is clearly made from different apples than the Rusty Bling. It has a pale, clear straw hue and looks bright and refreshing already in the bottle.

Clean, bright apple aromas emerge from the nose, and the cider is crisp and dry. It is very much a "champagne-style" cider, and there is not the sort of discernible tannic grip that is very evident in the intriguing Rusty Bling, with its crab apple influence.

You could drink this cider in place of a sparkling wine, or even a white wine - though I think cider is its own thing and as such, can easily guide a food choice, just as wine can be used to select an appropriate meal type.

Disclaimer: I was given this bottle at the winery to review.

I enjoyed my visit to Hoity Toity Cellars. Congratulations to the owner and staff for putting new-generation hybrid wines on Ontario's viticultural map.

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