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Friday, September 21, 2007

TRADE EVENT: Outer Limits of Ontario Wine

The Time and Date: Monday, July 23, 2 PM to 5 PM
The Event: The Outer Limits of Ontario Wine; a tasting of 100% Ontario
wine that is not currently VQA eligible from one of Ontario's
recognized areas.
The Venue: Savoy Bistro & Lounge
The Target Audience: wine trade, wine press
The Availability/Catalogue: All 212 wines from 40 different wineries
were available at their respective winery, but only a handful of wines
were distributed by the LCBO. The catalogue was a spreadsheet listing
the names and prices, websites, email addresses, and so forth, as well
as sugar levels. Each booth had further information about the wines
being tasted.
The Quote: "The paid public tasting in the evening was donated to
Grapes for Humanity which helps the victims of landmines"
The Wines: My strategy, to reduce palate fatigue, was to try just those
wines under 5 in sugar content. I also did not try grape wines I passed
on the geisenheim, the leon millot, the chambourcin, the de chaunac, or
the vidal), nor did I try blends with grapes, nor blends with spices or
chocolate. I missed a lot of good wines, but I at least had the
opportunity to leave my insulin pack at home! Many sweet wines sell
themselves. I had hoped to taste many of these sweet wines after I
tasted the off-dry ones in a pass through the booths. But it was not to
be...I began tasting alphabetically, and right away ran into some of
the best fruit wines I have ever had - from Applewood Farm Winery in
the Stouffville area. I started with their Crazy Eight Cider, a 100%
raspberry at 8.8%. The last time I had quality like this was when Lenz
Moser sent us an Austrian Sparkling Raspberry wine in the previous
century, under 10% alcohol. The intense raspberry flavours were
phenomenal, and the mousse was certainly effervescent. I was blown
away, enough to order five two-fours from

A 341 mL bottle costs a mere $2.50 (includes deposit). It'll be my
summer drink for the rest of the year. Don't tell the winery, but a lot
of their products are underpriced...Later I went back to try the Pear
Port 2002 (fortified to 18%, sugar code of 5, $12.95 for half a litre),
another phenomenal wine of intense pear flavours; it was better than my
usual all-time favourite pear sweetie, the St.Jorg Cellars Poire Royale
from California. I also enjoyed an experimental Caramel Apple, the
Strawberry Cider (10%, fresh strawberry nose and palate - not the usual
cooked jam I experienced in many other strawb concoctions; $9.95 for
750 mL), and the Mac-Meade (sparkling wine from Macintosh apples and
honey, same price). Applewood Farm Winery certainly excels at sparkling
fruit wines. At Archibald Orchards Estate Winery, I tried the Hard
Cider NV, 6.2%, sugar 3, $8.95 750 mL, off-dry in the finish, the nifty
Ida Red Oak Aged NV (12.1%, bone dry, $9.95, good oak consistency,
almost like a chardonnay; I've still got some of their 1999 Ida red Oak
Aged, which is still showing very well). The Birtch Farms and Estate
Winery Oak Aged Macintosh 2004(11.5%, sugar 1, $13.95) had less
oakiness but a more pronounced apple finish. Their Peach wine ($11.5%,
sugar 3, $12.95) was just peachy and slightly off-dry in the finish.
Their Rhubarb 2005 (one of the more difficult wines to make) was 12%,
sugar 3, $13.95, and reminiscent of a fine rhubarb jam. Coffin Ridge
makes an A Winey Pear 2006 ($14) which was made from wild pears. I also
tried Cornerstone Estate Winery's Cherry Festival 2005 (13% ABV, sugar
3, $9.50 for half-litre), with its off-dry cherry intensity. And their
Estate Apricot Wine 2004 (10.5% ABV, sugar 4, $9.50 for 500 mL) not
unsurprisingly like a fine off-dry vidal. Their Strawberry Festival
(12.5%, sugar 4, $9.50 for half-litre) was a bit light in taste, but it
certainly was not jammy. Cox Creek Cellars Black Currant Back Home NV
($13% ABV, bone dry, $11.70) was oak aged, good price, and highly
recommended - but it does need time to resolve the wood. Nevertheless,
another underpriced wine value. Downey's Estate Winery Premium
Gooseberry NV (14% ABV, bone-dry, $13.95) certainly tasted like
gooseberry without the jamminess, but it was also reminiscent of
sauvignon blanc. My fave gooseberry wine is from Hoodsport in
Washington State. Kawartha Country Wines Black Currant 2006 (14.1% ABV,
sugar 1, $14.80) showed its intense cassis nature. The Meadow Lane
Winery Black Currant NV (sugar 3, $10.95) gave it a run for its money.
Their Blueberry (sugar 3, $11.95) was fetching, but then I've never
been a fan of blueberries in any form. Their Plum NV (sugar 4, $10.95)
was more to my liking, with a great plum nose. Ocala Winery Heritage
Apple 2006 ($9.95 litre) had fresh apples on the nose and the palate,
and was good value for the price. Their Plum NV ($9.95 for 750 mL) had
plums in the nose and palate, long length, a finishing acid, not very
sweet, perfect as an aperitif. Pine Farms Hard Cider NV (7% ABV, dry,
$5.60 for half-litre) was a good cider in a manageable format for one
person. Their Macintosh Apple Wine 2006 (10.3% ABV, dry, $13.95) was
also a winner, loaded with fresh flavours. Puddicombe Estates Farms
Cranberry NV (10.4%, sugar 9, $15.20) was still refreshingly tart and
full. The winery makes 32 different wines, including a Peach NV of good
intensity and a Pear-a-dise (12% ABV, sugar 7, $18.10 for 750 mL) made
from bosc, bartlett, and sugar pears. Rush Creek Orchards Pearfection
NV (12.5%, dry, $10.25) showed remarkably good pear tones at this
level. My fave pear wines come from Bartlett Winery (the owner's name,
not the pear) in Maine; they make a variety of different styles of pear
wines, from bone dry to fortified levels. Scotch Block Elderberry NV
(11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $12.95) was a useful fruit wine, stressing the
elder fruit. Their Raspberry Rouge NV (11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $14.95) was
very good, off-dry in tone, lots of body. Scotch Block also makes a
series of currant wines, specifically Regal Red Currant NV (11.5%,
sugar 1, $12.95), Regal White Currant (11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $12.95), and
Regal Black Currant (11.8 ABV, sugar 1, $12.95). They would be terrific
to have at any kind of blind tasting. Scotch Block Strawberry Fields NV
(11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $11.95) showed ripe flavours, sweet aftertaste,
but finishes in a dry mode. As I said, I'm not a fan of blueberry but I
was blown away by the finish on their True Blue NV (11.5%ABV, sugar 1,
$14.95). Sunnybrook Farm Estate Ironwood Hard Cider (6% ABV, off-dry,
$13.15 for a six pack of 341 mL) was very fresh. County Cider Company
makes a County 2000 Champenoise NV, a cider made on the traditional
champagne method, from ida red, northern spy, and macintosh apples (8%
ABV, sugar 1, $19.95 bottle) is certainly something many fruit wineries
can aspire to. The mousse was superb, the nose all bready. My fave
raspberry wines come from Hoodsport and Paul Thomas in Washington State
(both for the bone dry wines) and Barghetto's Chaucer in California for
the off-dry raspberry. But after tasting today's fruit wines from
Ontario, I can safely say that I'll be pulling my Yankee dollars and
spending my fruit wine budget money at home. And I haven't even begun
to try the overthetop sweeties and iced wines here... I'm sorry I was
unable to try more sweet wines.
The Food: sausage cold cuts, cheeses, bread, pate.
The Downside: there were very few wine writers and sommeliers,
restaurateurs. Also, there was a hotch potch feel to the event, since
all forms of fruit wines (dry, off-dry, mixed with non-fruit,
fortified, etc.) were available, as well as some VQA grape wines
(despite the original intent of the tasting). Maybe next time we should
have three tastings - the grapes, the under 5 sugar codes, and the over
6 sugar codes.
The Upside: a great chance to get caught up with the Ontario fruit
The Contact Person:
The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 96 for me, a lower number possible
because of the lower trade turnout.

More trade notes at

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