Saturday, May 9, 2015

Report from ... Ontario Wine Awards - May 8, 2015

The Ontario Wine Awards turned 21 this year … and as I sit to write this I am kicking back with a 10 year old bottle of Malivoire 2005 Pinot Noir, drinking the past but looking at the current batch of awards which show that Ontario has a very bright future indeed.

MC tonight was Chef John Higgins, with his Scottish brogue he entertained the crowd with a few stories, hammered home the idea that wine and food were an excellent match and that the industries should work together to forge a brighter future; he also reminded everyone to soak up sauce with a big chunk of bread (provided by Stonemill Bakery) “there’s nothing better,” he said. All in all John did a much better job than the previous year’s MC Andy Brandt and even John’s miscues were followed by a laugh and a knowing wink – it all sounds better in Scottish anyway.

Big winners this evening were Thirty Bench, picking up 3 golds, 3 silvers and winemaker of the year for Emma Garner. Konzelmann took home five (2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze), same amount as Kacaba (1 / 3 / 1), while Flat Rock and Pillitteri took 4 each – though Pillitteri did walk away with the big red award of the night.

Prince Edward County represented in more than just the Chardonnay category this year, picking up 7 medals, including two in the Pinot Noir race and two golds for Huff Estates (Pinot Noir and Sparkling).

White Wine of the Year honours went to Peller Estates Winery for the 2013 Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc; while Red Wine of the Year was taken by Pillitteri Estates Winery for their 2010 Riserva Famiglia Cabernet Franc.

This year golds were handed out in each category, though there were some that did not have silver or bronze winners and there were multiple ties, especially in the sweet wine categories. 

The Big News … For those wondering if Exultet could win gold for a fifth year in a row for their Chardonnay over $20 - they did not, this year it was picked up by newcomer 16 Mile Cellar for their 2011 Civility Chardonnay.

Winemaker of the Year went to Emma Garner of Thirty Bench Wine Makers, whose acceptance speech was short and sweet – she legitimately seemed shocked and stunned to receive it … her resume of wins tonight (6 in total) showed why she deserved it. 

And the Gold Medal winning wines are …
The rest of the winners, in the silver and bronze categories, can be found at

Sparkling Wine –
Huff Estates 2010 Cuvee Peter F Huff

Dry Riesling –
Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2013 Riesling

Semi-Dry Riesling –
Flat Rock Cellars 2014 Riesling

Dry White Varietal –
Inniskillin 2013 Reserve Viognier

Gewurztraminer –
Trius 2013 Showcase Outlier Gewurztraminer

Pinot Blanc / Pinot Gris –
Konzelmann Estate 2013 Pinot Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon –
Peller Estates 2013 Andrew Peller Signature Sauvignon Blanc
- winner of the White Wine of the Year Award -

Oaked Chardonnay (under $20) -
Flat Rock Cellars 2012 Chardonnay

Oaked Chardonnay (over $20) -
16 Mile Cellar 2011 Civility Chardonnay

Unoaked Chardonnay –
Konzelmann Estate 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay

Rosé / Blanc de Noir -
Henry of Pelham Family Estate 2014 Rosé

Gamay –
Vieni Estates 2012 Gamay Noir

Pinot Noir –
Huff Estates 2013 Pinot Noir

Red Hybrid –
Pelee Island 2013 Baco Noir Reserve

Cabernet Sauvignon –
Trius 2012 Showcase East Block Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Franc –
Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2012 Small Lot Cabernet Franc

Merlot –
Kacaba Vineyards 2010 Reserve Merlot

Syrah/Shiraz –
Jackson-Triggs 2012 Delaine Syrah
- won this award last year and also took Bronze in the category this year -

Meritage and Cabernet/Merlot Blends –
Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2012 Benchmark Red

Late Harvest –
Peller Estates 2013 Private Reserve Late Harvest Vidal

Vidal Icewine –
Chateau des Charmes 2012 Vidal Icewine Estate Bottled
Sue-Ann Staff Estate 2012 Vidal Icewine
- there were also 4 Bronze handed out in this category -

Vinifera Icewine –
Inniskillin 2012 Riesling Icewine
- Inniskillin took Gold in this category last year –
- there were also 3 Bronze handed out in this category -

Appassimento Red Award –
Pillitteri Estates 2010 Riserva Famiglia Cabernet Franc
- winner of the Red Wine of the Year Award -

Blended Red Award –
The Foreign Affair 2012 Petit Verdot

Best Label Design Award –
Sue-Ann Staff Estate 2013 Fancy Farm Girl Foxy Pink

Winemaker of the Year -
Emma Garner – Thirty Bench Wine Makers

Wine Journalism Award -
Evan Saviolidis

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Report from ... French Wine Connection, Toronto - May 4, 2015

Sadly this is one of "those" tastings, where I will tell you about some really nice wines, but if you live in Ontario you'll never be able to pick up a bottle - well maybe not never, but certainly by the time they do reach our shores, the vintages I'll be describing will be long gone.

18 producers from 9 regions of France were here pouring wins the most represented region was the Loire, with 8 representatives.  Below a list of my top 5 producers and their wines that impressed ... Keep your eyes open, maybe one day ...

1 ... La Galaura (Languedoc)
Because we don't see these wines on these shores I didn't ask prices, but they certainly are wines I'd like to have on hand and in my cellar ... All three they showcased were a pure delight of the senses.

Black cherry, vanilla and plum (****)
90 year old vines
Spicy, plummy, smoky:
nice fruit backed by spice (****+)
50 year old vines - first vintage of own vineyard
plum, white pepper, spice, touch of violet, good acidity (****)
2 ... Olivier et Lafont (Rhone)
With any luck we'll see their wines here; both the Cote-du-Rhone and the Lirac were standouts.

Plum, spice, mocha and black cherry (****)
Fresh and fruity with cherry, plum and white pepper (****)

3 ... Le Clos Lucas (Beaujolais)
As a Beaujolais / Gamay fan I was very happy to see some here ... The two that stood out for me were:

Pinot Noir / Gamay Noir blend
with nice raspberry and cherry (*** 1/2)
100% Gamay Noir
Plum and black cherry ... lots of black cherry (*** 1/2+)

4 ... Les Grands Chais de France (Languedoc - Provence, negociant)
I really enjoyed the two wines I tried here - one even made this list ... Though the representative seemed otherwise engaged each time I came around, so I never tasted all the wines, I guess multitasking wasn't his thing.

Sweet fruit with cherry, plum,
mocha and well-balanced acidity (****)
5 ... Jean Pla (Languedoc)
The labels were just fun and playful, matching many of the wines in bottle, there was very little serious wine here - but then wine was never meant to be taken so seriously ... was it???

Blackberry, cassis and plum (*** 1/2+)