Posted by: fortheloveofwine | March 23, 2008

The Heartbreak Grape

I couldn’t have a wine blog and not comment on Pinot Noir.  After the release of the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir’s popularity suddenly rose. This delicious grape probably draws the biggest crowd of snobs in the world of wine.  It seems that everyone has a different idea on what a good Pinot Noir should taste like.  The truth of the matter is that the style of Pinot Noir varies from region to region.  The Californian Pinots depicted in Sideways tend to be more fruit forward with higher alcohol levels and softer acidity. A cooler climate like Burgundy, New Zealand, Oregon and Niagara produce complex Pinots with brighter acidity and have hints of earth and cedar.   Donning the title Heartbreak Grape, it is thought that Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow.  Pinot grapes have very thin skins making them more susceptible to the penetration of moulds and fungus. They tend to like warm days and cool nights.

There are some great local Pinots in my cellar.  My favourite, of course, is from Coyote’s Run Estate Winery in St. David’s.  We, as this is the winery I work for, make two styles of Pinot Noir distinguished by the types of soil that each section of grapes are planted in.  Naturally occurring on the property is a red-clay soil, which produces wines that are more fruit forward, perfumed and aromatic. On the other half of the property is a black-clay soil, which produces wines that are more earthy, smoky, rich and spicy.  Keeping with the coyote theme, they have been named Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir and Black Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir. The Black Paw Pinot won the prestigious title of Pinot Noir of the Year for Canada in 2003 and 2004.  Both Pinots are delicious.

Posted by: fortheloveofwine | March 22, 2008

Wines are Getting Screwed

I am proud to say it…I love screw cap.  With the many research papers published indicating all the benefits of screw cap, I am surprised that some people continue to resist this new change in closure technology. 

Some of the research I have read suggests that wines bottled under screw cap contain lower levels of SO2, have no chance of becoming corked and has the highest level of protection against oxidization.  If that isn’t enough to convince you, the bottles are easier to open and reseal if you don’t finish them.  Wines bottled under screw cap do not have to be stored on their side to keep the cork moist, nor do they have to be cellared in a humidity-controlled cellar. 

I think most people realize that screw cap closures aren’t just for cheap wines, like they have been associated with in the past, but many are still not sold on them as respectable wine closures.  The people who are sitting on the fence with this topic are mostly resisting this inevitable change because they are stuck on the “ceremony” of opening a bottle of wine.  Which, by the way, is usually opened improperly at most restaurants (the best “opening technique” I have ever seen was when a server put the bottle between her knees to yank the cork out – terrible) There are a number of steps, according to my instructors at the International Sommelier Guild, to open the wine “properly”. I am not too picky when it comes to how my wine is opened, but if you are using the argument that you like the “ceremony” of opening a bottle with a cork as your main reason for not embracing screw cap – rest assured that it is a weak argument seeing as it is rarely opened properly.

The sooner you embrace the stelvin closure the better, more and more Niagara wineries are moving in that direction.  It makes the most sense for keeping premium products their best.

Posted by: fortheloveofwine | March 21, 2008

Glorious Gewurztraminer

This one is for Joe…


When I think about gewürztraminer, the new LCBO radio commercial comes to mind where they describe it as delicate as an Alsatian ballerina in a grape-skin tutu.  I think those commercials are brilliant, by the way.  This remark is funny because some of the most famous gewürztraminers come from Alsace, in France.

One of the distinctive qualities of this grape variety is its delicate pink colour, which can sometimes transfer to the wine itself depending on the length of time the skins of the grapes are left in contact with the juice during the wine making process.  Gewurztraminers tend to have a very distinct smell and taste of lychee fruit, rose petals with spicy notes of ginger and pepper.  The name gewürztraminer is a combination of 2 words: gewurz, which means spice and traminer, which means earth.

Alsace and Germany produce some great specimens, but Niagara is starting to produce some great products as well.  One of my favourites is produced by Palatine Hills winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I find that the style of Gewurztraminer can be quite floral, heavy and sweet coming from Niagara, but Palatine does a great job and has created a wine that is delicate and balanced with nice fresh acidity. 

I wore the winemaker’s hat this year and one of the wines I made was gewürztraminer.  I fermented it completely dry.  The ginger character comes through on the nose.  Not bad for a first-time shot.

Don’t be intimidated by the difficult name, get out there and try gewürztraminer – I know you’ll love it!

Posted by: fortheloveofwine | March 16, 2008

Celebrity Wines

Mike Weir, Dan Akroyd, Bob Izumi, Wayne Gretzky

There are many opinions on celebrity wines.  Several people roll their eyes at the emergence of a new celebrity wine.  Perhaps they feel that having a celebrity endorse a wine takes away from the romance and sophistication of wine.  Personally, I feel that celebrity interest in the wine industry is an excellent thing.  It opens up the market to people who may not choose wine as their social drink of preference by associating something familiar, a sports star or actor, with delicious wine beverages.  If it gets more people drinking wine, it’s a good thing.  Some of these wines are really good. I recommend the Bob Izumi Red from Coyote’s Run. It has loads of blueberry and raspberry fruit character upfront with a very lively spicy black pepper finish.  And the best thing about this wine is that by purchasing a bottle you are supporting a fundraiser – the Fishing Forever Foundation.  You are saving the fish, one delicious drink at a time

Posted by: fortheloveofwine | February 27, 2008

Niagara Rieslings

My next posting was inspired by my recent trip to Fielding Estates Winery located on the bench in Beamsville.  My visit started out as a social call to say hello to my fellow industry mates, but seeing as I was there I thought I would revisit one of Niagara’s best wine producing varietals: Riesling. In my opinion, Fielding produces some of the finest Rieslings in the peninsula. The natural slope of the Niagara Escarpment provides excellent drainage to ensure the roots of those Riesling grapes dig deep to extract the minerals and nutrients from down low.  The slightly cooler temperatures on top of the bench keep the acid levels in Riesling nice and fresh.  Without its crispy acidity, the intense flavor of Riesling is not balanced. The sweet nuances of honeysuckle, peaches and tangerine require that bright acidity to create a refreshing balance.  The Beamsville Bench is definitely one of the appellations where Riesling shines. 

I especially like the sparkling wine Fielding produces from their Riesling grapes.  It exhibits zingy lemon character combined with hints of mineral and delicious bubbles prepared by the charmat-method, a method in sparkling-winemaking where the secondary fermentation process – when the carbon dioxide is trapped in the wine to create bubbles – happens in a pressurized tank before the carbonated product is bottled. Delish! 

Interestingly, Riesling is supposed to be one of the best grape varietals to display the differences in terroir, the philosophy of how the aspects of nature influence how a wine tastes.  Differences in soil, climate and aspect all influence the outcome of a wine and supposedly it is most distinguishable in Niagara with Riesling.  Someday I would like to sample Riesling from each sub appellation in Niagara and see if I can pick out terroir differences.  I wonder if I could use that as a business expense.  I know what you are thinking – life is tough.

Cheers to Riesling!

Posted by: fortheloveofwine | February 5, 2008

A toast to my first blog

Wine is such an interesting topic on which write a blog.  Everyone has something to say on the subject whether they are novice explorers or professional sommeliers.  The more I study the subject of wine the more I realize it covers such a vast array of information. Grape varieties, country of origin, differences in the wine-making process and even differences in soil and climate help write the story that accompanies each bottle of wine. 

Where to start?  How about in your own backyard.  Niagara is home to many outstanding wines recognized world-wide.  With its own distinct appellation system and governing quality control board (VQA), it compares to top-notch wines from around the world.  As a young wine producing region, Niagara is still growing and testing out its own unique methods of producing wine.  The Canadian wine industry owes its international recognition to the unique production of Icewine.  Due to the consistently cold temperatures Canada experiences every year, Canada is leading Icewine production world wide.

Niagara produces much more than the sweet delicious dessert wine.  Red and white cool-climate style wines are also winning awards internationally.  Niagara is most well-known for producing superb Rieslings and Chardonnays as well as dynamic and flavourful Cabernet Francs and Gamays. 

I personally believe that some of the best wines I have tried have come from my own back door.  Niagara has lots to offer the international wine world.