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Friday, 20 April 2012

Caroline Cellars

As the summer approaches, I am beginning to plan a journey to some of the many wineries in my local area of Niagara-on-the-lake. My count of wineries visited is still in the single digits, but by summer's end I would like to be in the double digits. 
At the moment, taking time out of my day to visit a winery can be somewhat difficult. My attention is focused 100% on finding a job so other things get put on the back burner. The long and the short of it is that I need the job so that I might partake in more wine and allow this blog to flourish. As fate would have it, my two paths converged. I found a job opening at Caroline Cellars Winery and just had to apply. Unlike 90% of the jobs I apply for, Caroline Cellars required me to appear in person to apply. I graciously complied and begun my trek to this unfamiliar winery. 
Although my GPS had no record of the address, it was easy enough to find the old fashion way. The Winery is comprised of one large wooden building that is very cabin-esque. The cabin theme is carried forth to the interior of the shop and gives the place an auspicious feel. 
I was greeted by the solo sales clerk with a smile and proceeded to hand in my resume with no intention of tasting the wine. Unfortunately the manager couldn't meet with me at that time so I made for the door. I was literally backing out of the parking lot when I had a second thought. I pulled back into my spot and went back in. I needed to try this wine.
After 20+ minutes of chatting I had sampled 4 wines that I'd like to share with you. Below are the winery's tasting notes and below them I will provide my revisions. 

2007 Oaked Chardonnay (VQA) $13.00 750 ml (0) 
Tropical notes of banana, coconut and lime dominate the nose of this wine, but there are also distinct roasted nutty notes – chestnut and cashew, balanced by baking spices – nutmeg and clove, especially.  On the palate this wine is smooth, full and rich, with tropical banana and coconut, but also butterscotch – which at times is reminiscent of bananas foster!

2008 Pinot Noir (VQA) $15.00 750 ml (0) 
This is our very first single variety Pinot Noir! A complex and evolving nose has dominant wild berry, but also earthy mushroom and herbaceous notes – aka “forest floor”.  On the palate, this wine is soft yet structured with wild berry and clove, but also mushroom and some floral notes. Pair with mushroom-based dishes, or earthy game meats like ostrich or rabbit.

2008 Bradfield Red (VQA) $12.50 750ml (0) 
This medium bodied red is made from 100% Zweigelt grown on our family estate. Strong notes of sandal wood, smoky white pepper and roasted chestnuts appear on the nose, balanced by red plum and black currant.  On the palate, this wine is smooth and easy to drink with blackberry, blueberry and sour cherry notes with slight white pepper. Pair with a peppery beef dish or salmon.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (VQA) $14.00 750ml (0) 
A medium bodied dry red wine with loads of fruit on the nose and palate, including blackberry, plum and black currant notes. On the nose, hints of cedar, leather and dark chocolate also shine through. This
 wine has firm tannins and is very food-friendly, which makes it a fantastic every day wine

Now, I know my palate is not what it could be but I tend to be able to pick out the most prominent scents and flavours of a wine. With these 4 I had a hard time pairing the notes with what I was tasting. The Chardonnay wasn't as tropical as I was expecting but it did have a lovely vanilla smell that I picked up the instant it was poured. I would say the body was medium at best and the flavour was good but not rich. I was also told that it had undergone partial MLF (Malolactic Fermentation: the process that gives Chardonnay's that wonderful buttery smoothness), but apparently not enough. Regardless, out of the 4 I tried, this was the one I purchased. In retrospect, I should have tried a riesling or bought something different. The reason being, my girlfriend is allergic to banana and she finds the smell repulsive. I did not pick up on the banana when I tasted the wine but her more adept nose and palate might. Sorry Elizabeth!
As for the reds, when I saw Pinot I had to give it a try. I commend Caroline Cellars for trying but I can't praise this Pinot the way I'd like too. The nose was quite earthy and got me excited for taste but unfortunately I was misled. What I tasted was much more sour than expected and at best can be describe as cherry tobacco. 
The Zweigelt was another interesting sample; being that it was the first time that I had experienced the Austrian hybrid. I tried it on a whim and was disappointed. I have nothing to compare it to, so I won't say that it was bad. It just wasn't my cup of tea so to speak. Finally we get to the Cab. Sauv. 
After the Pinot failed me, this was the wine I thought I would be leaving with, but once again, I was wrong. When I see the word chocolate in a note I want to find it in the glass and I just couldn't here. As in the Pinot, I found the Cab. Sauv. a little sour and not as tannic as I would like. 
After rereading the notes and recalling the flavours I believe I was having an off day. I would still suggest visiting Caroline Cellars to anyone who enjoys wine and maybe even to those who don't, as they have a wide variety of fruit wines. I am curious to see if given some time that I'll get a different result and what my girlfriend thinks of Caroline Cellars wine. In the mean time I would like to put the blame for the skewed tastes on the glassware. I am a huge fan and believer in proper glassware when drinking wine and I think with a bigger glass I would have enjoyed these wines much more. I look forward to popping open the Chardonnay and digging for those tropical smells and flavours.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Bold And The Beautiful

Hey everyone, I just thought I'd post some notes on the wine I've drunk lately. As the title suggests, I find these wines to be very bold and full of flavour, leaving your mouth with a beautiful finish that endures long after you've emptied your glass.
Now, there is no specific reason why I've chosen to drink only Zinfandels and Shiraz as of late, it just happened that way. I do find that these varietals bring to mind summer evenings in the backyard and barbecued fare. Enjoy!

Peachy Canyon Winery – 2007 Zinfandel ($21.95):
This Zin has a beautiful deep ruby colour. Raspberry jam is ever present on the nose and the palate. The flavours are so bold it is hard to get anything else but that’s no problem. The body is medium to heavy but is still great on a hot evening. This wine goes down so smooth without a taste of tannins. A great match for barbecued wares.

Ravenswood - 2009 Zinfandel ($19.95):
This Old Vine Zinfandel is expressive with notes of warm spice and vanilla. Powerful, full-bodied raspberry and blackberry flavours with structured tannins will allow this wine to age, but vibrant fruit makes it perfect for drinking right now.

I have recently checked the LCBO and Peachy Canyon websites for more of the 2007 vintage but to no avail. I'm sure the 2008 and newer vintages will be just as good now, if not in a few years.

Mitolo Junior - 2008 Shiraz ($16.95):
Deep purple in colour with notes of blackberry, plum, anise, and eucalyptus on the nose. This wine has tons of body and could be too much for some. The palate develops into a velvety combination of black fruit and cocoa bean leading to a smooth medium spiced finish with soft tannins.

Rosemount Diamond - Shiraz ($15.95):
This Shiraz is deep red and almost purple. Very fragrant with dark berry fruit scents. The body is medium to heavy but the flavour is bold with a spicy finish.

Oatley Tic Tok - Shiraz($15.95):
Deep ruby to purple in colour.; Notes of raspberry, blueberry, vanilla and spicy oak aromas. Dry, medium to full body and ripe fruit flavours with toasty oak finish.


Friday, 6 April 2012

Niagara College Reception/ Tasting

Sorry about the delay everyone. I have been quite busy as of late. The job search is never ending and if you didn't already know, I've been putting a lot of thought into going to college in September. I've already applied and been accepted for Culinary, Winery Tech. and GIS, but applying is the easy part. Now I must decide what I wish to pursue. Somehow having more options makes it so much more difficult.
I've weighed the pros and cons a 100 times in my head and it still plagues me. I do love and have always loved food but I'm questioning whether culinary school is worth it. GIS is a relatively new system that a lot of jobs are looking for and would be very compatible with my degree, however, Winery tech. seems very appealing. I love wine and have always wanted to make it and I'd like to think there are a lot of opportunities for work once out of school.
Either way, before I could make my ultimate decision I had to check out the campus and find out more about the programs. Luckily this past weekend there was a open house day in which all prospective students could come and attend information sessions on their desired programs. Needless to say, I was excited to go and with the promise of free food, wine and beer, I could not miss this chance.
The afternoon of information went fairly quick and thank god because I was eager to get to the wine. Instead of taking a tour of the campus we bypassed straight to the wine store. Tastings that would usually cost $2 a pop, were completely free so I had to take full advantage. There were at least 12 different wines to try and I tasted about 5; a Riesling, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Franc, and a Cabernet Franc Ice wine.
Overall, I'd have to say that the wines were unique. I understand that for some, wine is an acquired taste, and in this case there is a lot of different tastes to be acquired. For a couple of these batches I just didn't get what was going on. The Riesling was toted as having citrus flavours, particularly lime. I am a fan of lime and citrus flavours in most all forms, but for some reason it just didn't work here. The structure and flavour presented by this Riesling made me think of juice or pop rather than wine which disappointed me, but was not nearly as disappointing as the Chardonnay. It was atrocious! I was admonished by the tasting notes that this wine would have strong butterscotch and smokey flavour and I should have heeded the warning. In a lot of ways it tasted like a scotch and to some that might seem like a bad thing. However, I am a huge fan of scotch but not when it is watered down. The issue for me was that it was in between two separate drinks that I enjoy and this grey area was very unpleasant and almost undrinkable. Never wasting a drop of wine, I drunk the sample down and begged for something else. The Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc were far superior to both of the whites, but once again were nothing special. Both were medium to light bodied, full of cherry and red fruit flavours, with a smooth finish.
The star of the show was with out a doubt the ice wine. On account of its price, I've drunk very little ice wine but I've found that red ones, specifically Cabernet Franc ice wines are my favourite. It was fruity, jammy, cold, and sweet. Like taking a bit out of a raspberry or strawberry pie.
Keeping in mind that they were produced by student winemakers, I was impressed by the quality of the wine in general. The taste wasn't always there but the structure and passion for the product was. Having tasted the competition my urge to create my own wine has been renewed and my perhaps my mind has been made up? Winery Technician program, here I come?