Sunday, April 13, 2014

2010 Sue Ann Staff Baco Noir (Ontario VQA)

This is a relatively new Baco in Ontario's wine scene. It hails from the Jordan area in the Niagara Peninsula.

Screwcap closure; a light, 10.8% alc./vol.

The Baco pours with a clear, dark ruby colour and a black-cherry hue; it is translucent at the core and pinkish-ruby at the meniscus, with decent tears.

Swirling brings out pleasantly brackish, funky V. riparia aromas that waft about on the nose (and that are interestingly reminiscent of Cynthiana).

There's the lithe, tart acidity, that is so very typical of Baco; but even with that and the low alcohol, there is good balance. The mouth feel is invigorating and zingy.

Sour-cherry fruit wraps up the finish, with additional brackish replays.

$14.95 on general list at the LCBO - the same price as Henry of Pelham's Baco.

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. Follow this link for background information on the Frontenac grape.

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 (click this link for more background information on the Marquette grape).

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 (see this link for background information). 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.

The winery makes other wines as well, in addition to the ones I have reviewed here. To see the entire wine selection at Hoity Toity, follow this link.

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.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2012 Villa Nova Estate Aenigma

I recently visited Villa Nova Estate Winery, located in Ontario's Norfolk County. I had read about their wines online and wanted to try them - especially the Aenigma, which is a blend of Regent, Frontenac, and Cab Sauvignon.

Previous to this, I don't ever recall seeing a wine for sale in Ontario made using the Regent variety. Regent was created in Germany in 1967 by crossing Diana (Silvaner x Müller Thurgau) and Chambourcin (see here for more information). This is a very welcome addition to the wine scene in Ontario.

The 2012 Aenigma is interesting not just for the blend of grapes it consists of, but also for the fact that it is finished with Ontario white oak - something that is still a rarity here. I heartily applaud this decision to use locally sourced oak, both for the unique flavour profile and for the regional authenticity.

Aenigma pours with a beautiful, dense garnet colour that turns to deep magenta at the rim of the glass. Obviously, Regent has inherited the amazing pigmentation of other V. riparia-based hybrids. Fruity, spicy oak hints mingle with pepper-infused black cherry notes to create a very elegant bouquet. Moderate acidity leads the way, with a beautifully dry mid-palate on which superb puckery tannins flesh out broadly. Subtle oak-spice replays fan out at this point and linger prominently into the dry, tasty finish. The wine is 14% alc./vol. but everything is so well balanced that the finish displays just a gentle warmth.

This is a most excellent wine - one that I will be proud to serve on my dinner table in the future. An excellent blend with character, quality and structure. Once again - if you need a vinifera equivalent to gauge the style, think of the Chianti Classico style.

I would also add that this wine has clearly convinced me that Regent deserves a prominent place in Ontario's winescape: it produces an excellent red wine.

$14.50 per 750 ml bottle. Available at the winery only.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

2011 Coffin Ridge "Back From the Dead Red" (Ontario VQA)

According to the back label, this Foch-based blend consists of 78.5% Foch, 12.3% Merlot and 9.2% Cabernet (type not specified). The bottle is closed with a high-quality natural cork. 

This Foch-based wine pours with a beautiful, inky beet-purple colour that is so typical of the grape. The nose of the wine is representative of Foch, with intense, spicy black-cherry, pinpoint blackcurrant and intriguing brackish aromas that speak to the V. riparia heritage of Foch.

There's zippy acidity on the entry, with expansive cherry and classic herbaceous flavours across the palate. On the mid-palate, a nice streak of tannin is noted, and this is likely provided by the Merlot and Cabernet component. The finish is zippy, but nicely balanced (12.5% alc./vol.). The wine has a superb blackcurrant bouquet, is quite dry, and is both flavourful and cleansing.

The blackcurrant aromas remind me of the Old Vines Foch that Inniskillin used to make in the 1990s: the very wine that turned me on to Ontario red hybrid wines.

A recommended, characterful red wine from Grey County.

The wine is available at Vintages at the time of writing (search for local availability via the LCBO Product ID: 260463). The wine sells for $17.

Monday, November 11, 2013

2012 Konzelmann Baco Noir (Ontario VQA)

Konzelmann's 2012 Baco Noir pours with a black-garnet colour that fades to magenta near the rim of the glass. There's great colour in this Baco, as in virtually all Bacos. As with most reds, this wine needs some decanting to come into its own - and it actually integrated really well within a day of being opened.

On the nose are aromas of plum, and a briny, bacon-like note that makes me think of Syrah; there are also hints of fine brackish scents from the grape's Vitis riparia lineage.

On the entry there is light acidity that is quite mellow for a Baco. It's a good thing, as the wine shows exemplary balance. A nice overlay of fine-grained tannin covers the palate and is followed by moderate warmth (12% alc./vol.), leading to a pleasant finish.

The wine is said to be slightly oaked, but I think that more overt oak would do the wine very well. Baco handles oak very well, and the oak adds not only wood tannins but additional olfactory and gustatory layers.

Konzelmann's Baco is bottled in a one-litre size and is available at the winery only, for $11.95.

Friday, November 8, 2013

2011 Konzelmann Vidal Golden Vintage (Ontario VQA)

The 2011 Konzelmann Vidal Golden Vintage pours with a beautiful clear straw colour, showing light yellow highlights in the glass.

Aromas of passion fruit, papaya, ripe pineapple and pine needles on the nose show that alliteration need not take the first letter of the grape's name...(!)

Ripe, sweet pineapple flavours lead on the entry; a touch of residual sugar moderates acidity that is refreshing and in fine balance. A tangerine flavour emerges on the mid-palate and offers some pleasant citrus-rind replays on the finish, which wraps up with just a touch of warmth (12 % alc./vol.).

Konzelmann's Vidal is one of my favourite examples of varietal Ontarian Vidal table wine. It shows how versatile the Vidal grape is in Ontario's winescape. Vidal produces wines across the full spectrum: from dry, crisp table wines, to off-dry ones like this one; and, finally, late-harvest dessert wines and the pinnacle - icewine.

Vidal Golden Vintage is available at the winery only, for $9.75 per bottle.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2011 Aure Giggle Juice Classic (Ontario VQA)

This creatively named red from the Beamsville area of the Niagara Peninsula is a blend comprising 91% Chambourcin (!), 5% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc.

The wine pours with a translucent, deep ruby colour. Aromas of hickory on redcurrant; a light nose. Light and quite tart on the entry, with some tannin coming in on the mid-palate. Cleansing and invigorating all across the palate. A gentle warmth emerges on the aft-palate (12.5% alc./vol.), with more hickory-like replays. A light-bodied red with good verve.

I was quite surprised to see a majority-Chambourcin VQA wine when I visited Aure. The last straight Chambourcin that I remember in Ontario was from Grape Tree Estate around the turn of the century. Although that winery made other wines as well, it was not around for a long time.

If you need a vinifera-oriented benchmark for this wine, I'd once again look to Northern Italy, as is the case with many red hybrids. Baco and Foch are heavier in texture than this Chambourcin-based blend, but as with those two, you wouldn't be wrong to think of this as being broadly akin to a lithe, bright Barbera - one that would go well with pizza or pasta.

This wine is available at the winery only, for $11.50.