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Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Event: a tasting of Ontario fruit wines

The Date and Time:  Thursday, February 26, 2015  10:30AM to 4:30PM
The Event: a tasting of Ontario fruit wines
The Venue: Wine Writers' Circle of Canada exclusive tasting facilities.
The Target Audience: WWCC members
The Availability/Catalogue: all wines are available at the wineries involved, but a few were also at the LCBO as noted below.
The Quote/Background: It had been 7.5 years since the last fruit wine tasting in Ontario. IT IS WORTH REPEATING my notes from that time for Monday, July 23, 2007 – "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", as organized by the late Larry Paterson. 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. My strategy, to reduce palate fatigue, was to try just those fruit wines under SC 5 in sugar content. I missed a lot of good wines, but many sweet wines sell themselves. 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. 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). 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 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..."
The Wines: Today's tasting was of some 45 wines, about a third of the number I tasted eight years ago. But from fewer wineries as sadly some no longer exist. Wines are normally bottled and sold in 750mL unless otherwise stated. My notes are from my experiences alone, and do NOT reflect the WWCC, and are NOT an average score of the tasting. We had three separate flights: one flight for the ciders, one flight for the 750 mL bottles which were mainly around SC 2 in sugars, and one flight for the dramatically sweet or iced styles, SC over 5. This way we could pace our palates...
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2012    Spiced Apple    $19.95
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2012    Bosc Pear    $18.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Framboise     $14.95  375mL
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Red Raspberry Sensation     $14.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Regal Black Currant     $14.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Cassis     $14.95 375mL
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Raspberry    $23.95
-Muskoka Lakes Winery    2013    Cranberry Wine $15.95    +609701 LCBO
-Wooden Bear L Winery    Applicious NV    $14.95 500 ml  2014/15 Intervin Honours
-Wooden Bear L Winery    Bear Claw Hard Cider NV    $3.00    N/A 341 ml    [variety of apples]
-Southbrook Vineyards    NV    Canadian Framboise    $15.95 375mL +341024 LCBO
-Applewood winery    2013    Iced Cider    $29.95  375mL
-Applewood winery    2014    Hopped Amber Cider    $3 525mL
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Strawberry Fields     $14.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Strawberry Sensation     $14.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Strawberry Sunsation     $14.95 375mL
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Cranberry    $23.95 Cranberry 85%; Apple 15%
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Blueberry Truffle     $15.95  375mL
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Chocolate Embrace    $22.95/34.95 375/750 Blueberry 100%
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Black Raspberry Sensation     $14.95
-Villa Nova Estate    2013    Nectar    $9.95    +252962 375m Nectarine
-Wooden Bear L Winery    2012    Gala     $14.95 2014/15 Intervin Honours
-Wooden Bear L Winery    2011    Cherry 2011    $14.95    2013 ACWC Gold Winner
-Revel Cider Co.    2014    Hop X    $5.05    500mL    Apple  6.9% ABV   
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Blueberry    $22.95
*** GOOD -- Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Redhaven Peach    $21.95
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Burgundy Plum    $22.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Framboise Truffle     $15.95  375mL
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Blueberry Bouquet     $14.95 375mL
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Strawberry Truffle     $15.95 375mL
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Blueberry Sensation     $14.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Cassis Truffle     $15.95 375mL
-Villa Nova Estate    2013    Cerise    $12.95    +277325
-Villa Nova Estate    2014    Saucy Apple Cider    $9.95    +267922  750mL
-Villa Nova Estate    2014    Saucy Fizzy Peach Cider    $9.95 750mL
-Muskoka Lakes Winery    2012    Red Maple Dessert Wine    $23.95 +50039 LCBO 375mL [maple, cranberry]
-Muskoka Lakes Winery    2013    Cranberry Blueberry Wine $16.95 +609719 LCBO
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Apple Cider    $2.95    +405241 LCBO 473 ml
-Wooden Bear L Winery    2013    GalaCrisp    $14.95   
-Wooden Bear L Winery    Apple Cherry NV    $14.95
-Scotch Block Winery    2014    Kinky Keltic     $14.95  Black Currant, Red Currant, Red Raspberry, Gooseberry [varies from year to year]
-Applewood winery    2010    Apple Jack    $40  21% ABV
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery    2013    Iced Apple    $19.95 375 ml
-Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery 2013    Tres Robles (oaked) Apple Cider $15.95 1.9 L or keg 7% ABV
The Food: bread and water
The Contact Person: or
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 95.


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