Friday, January 19, 2018

2016 Inniskillin Baco Noir (Ontario VQA)

This wine initially caught my eye last summer when I spotted it at a Wine Rack store. Baco from Inniskillin? That's a new one. Up to the turn of the millennium, Inniskillin had produced an Old Vines Foch (the very wine that turned me onto red hybrid wines twenty years ago); sadly, production of that wine was discontinued in the early 2000s—a mistake!

This Baco pours with a dense black-cherry colour that fades to medium-deep magenta at the meniscus. The initial aromas are of blue plums with a slight overlay of peppercorns—classic Baco. The entry is very supple with balanced acidity (the mildest of any Baco I've tasted) and a broad warmth from the 13% alc./vol. On the palate, the acidity remains mild but cleansing, as it works its way to the back of the palate. The finish is short and clean.

It's a good Baco that retails on general list at the LCBO now as well (limited availability), for $15.95 CAD.

I still would like to see Inniskillin bring back their Foch!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2016 Sandbanks Foch - Baco Noir "Sleeping Giant" (VQA Ontario)

This blend of Foch and Baco has been one of my go-to reds for well over a year now. Sandbanks Estate Winery is located south of Belleville (eastern Lake Ontario, north shore—basically across the lake from Rochester).

The wine pours with a beautiful, saturated black-cherry/magenta colour. Sweet and herbaceous Vitis riparia aromas are immediately dominant on the nose and are backed up by lively summer raspberry fruit. There's oak here, but it's well integrated and in the background, offering more structural support than overt aromatics—which is fine by me, as the palate benefits from this oak treatment.

Tart but balanced acidity fans out across the palate, offering a refreshing texture and good warmth from the 12.8% alc./vol. The finish is elegant and a touch spicy from the oak, but in a restrained way.

Excellent wine and well worth the price (it varies between $18 and $20 at the LCBO depending on time of year).

One of the best, and a welcome addition to the modern red hybrid winescape.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2015 Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery is Niagara's Baco Noir specialist. Not only are they a consistent producer of quality varietal Baco in the region—they actually produce three distinct releases of the varietal wine, all with slightly different oak aging regimens and fruit sourced from vines of different ages.

In reserve for today's New Year tasting is the Speck Family Reserve. It's the only one that I hadn't tasted up to now. It retails for $25 at Vintages and is available at select stores only.

This wine hails from the winery's original planting of Baco, dating back to 1984. That's interesting, because it means that the vines predate the whole VQA system under which the wine bears a "VQA Ontario" designation. Even though the wine technically hails from the Short Hills Bench appellation, VQA does not deem hybrids worthy of appellation-specific nomenclature—an absurdity, as wine writer David Lawrason rightly pointed out in his write-up on the wine.

The bottle is closed with an elegant, solid, top quality natural cork. The cork showed deep purple-black staining once pulled out, though only where it had been in contact with the wine, indicating a good seal.

The wine poured with a gorgeous, saturated black, cherry-mahogany hue which, in the glass, morphs into a weathered-sumac hue at the meniscus. At 13.5% alc./vol., good tear development can be seen along the inside of the glass (and is even visible in the picture at right).

The nose is deeply oaky, with big, bold, black-cherry fruit and prominent wood vanillins from the American oak. There is lengthy integration of bold oak and fruit. On the palate, lithe, bright acidity leads the way; the texture is dry and cleansing along the mid-palate and energetically lively into the finish. The flavours finish out with beets, red currants, a hint of dried tomatoes and just a tap of oak at the end.

Very well done, but bold and oaky in style. If you prefer less oak, try the winery's Old Vines release.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

2014 Georgian Hills Maréchal Foch (Ontario VQA)

I had wanted to try this Foch for a long time, given that it comes from a "non-traditional" wine growing region in Ontario: the southern shore of Georgian Bay. That, plus the fact that I'm a fan of the Maréchal Foch grape, made this a "must get" wine.

Varietal Foch was easy to find in Ontario up to and just past the turn of the millennium; slowly afterwards, though, it began to disappear from the winescape. For this reason, I am always excited to find new examples of varietal Foch, as this is a grape which deserves more respect for the heft of the red wines that it can produce in climates with short growing seasons and occasionally harsh winters.

The Georgian Hills Foch is closed with a natural cork; upon pulling out the cork, I noted lots of inky-purple saturation on the end of the cork (a signature sign of many red-hybrid wines) and also noted some tartrate crystals intermixed with the pigment.

The wine pours with a deep, saturated, black/cherry hue. In the glass, hue is an intense but translucent black/cherry/garnet when held against a light. Foch is a teinturier grape—one that has pigmented skins and pulp, and therefore, it makes a wine of great visual intensity.

The aromas are of light black cherry; they are simple, and not as layered as the much missed, oak-aged Niagara Peninsula Fochs tended to be (and as the Vieni Reserve from Niagara still is). That said, the cherry fruitiness is inviting.

Bright acidity and light but good tannins arrive on the entry. The wine is dry and pleasant on the mid-palate, and at 12.5%, it is gently warming. Very good structure on the mid-palate, without the zinginess that many a Baco Noir has. I've always thought that Foch was the more interesting of these two grapes (both were common in Ontario, but Baco is still more widely produced today).

$14.95 at the LCBO; available at stores mainly near its area of origin.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

2012 Leelanau Cellars Baco Noir (Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan)

While in Michigan I picked up this varietal Baco Noir which hails from the Leelanau Peninsula. On the label it says, "A Taste of Northern Michigan"—very nice.

I had previously never tried Baco from such a northerly location, being instead more accustomed to those produced in Southern Ontario.

The wine is of a medium-ruby hue; quite translucent in the bottle. In the glass, it shows typical Baco saturation, and seems a darker shade of garnet.

Aromatically, it is unlike most Ontario Bacos, showing a bright red-berry fruitiness that reminds me of a few Bardolinos that I've tried over the years. On the entry, the wine is tart and lively in a rounded way (a Baco trait for sure), and has good warmth as well, clocking in at 12.55% alc./vol. The finish is fresh and palate-invigorating.

A good wine. I got it for USD $15 and would buy it again.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

2013 Magnotta Dry Vidal Equus Series (Ontario VQA)

I remember enjoying this wine tremendously many years ago. I'm happy to say that Magnotta's dry Vidal, while having undergone a name and label change since the early days, is as fine a wine as I remember it.

In fact, I love dry Vidal table wine so much that the background on my blog is a photo of Vidal grapes growing in Niagara wine country. Vidal is one of Ontario's most versatile wine grapes.

12.8% alc./vol. Clear, medium-straw/yellow hue in the glass. Wonderful aromas of lemon candy, pineapple, pine needles and guava. Crisp and focused on the entry, with that lively and lovely varietal acidity; a warm but balanced texture; and a palate-cleansing, fully dry finish that I appreciate.

Magnotta's retail outlet is a fine place to visit and the prices are right. I have long believed that Magnotta makes Ontario's best dry Vidal table wine... I still believe it, having tasted this version.

$7.45 for a 750 ml bottle, and worth every penny.

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.