Monday, March 15, 2010

Niagara College Teaching Winery,

(Photograph taken by Tracy Carreau)

The Niagara College Teaching Winery is Canada’s first commercial teaching winery. Niagara College students do every single step of the winemaking process from viticulture and fermentation to manipulating barrels. To be completely honest, I walked into the Niagara College Teaching Winery with low expectations knowing well in fact that students where making the wine I was going to taste. However, I was shocked because the quality of wine surpassed my expectations and their Chardonnays stand among the best in the region.

I tasted and judged the 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay, the 2001 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, 2008 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay and the 2007 Deans List Chardonnay.

2007 Unoaked Chardonnay – $14.95

Visual: Straw colour.

Aroma: Faint aroma of tropical fruit, lime and pear.

Flavour: Lots of acidity, tangerines and tropical fruit with a little bitterness.

My opinion: This wine had a faint aroma of tropical fruit and lime, which was quite nice. There was also a faint tangerine flavour with a lot of bitterness that I did not particularly enjoy. However the acidity did make it quite refreshing. For an Unoaked Chardonnay, this wine was nothing special. I would not go out of my way to purchase a bottle.

My rating: 68/100 - Meh, this wine needs work.

2007 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay – $18.95

Visual: Straw colour.

Aroma: Faint aroma of peach, pear and cream.

Flavour: Nice acidity, nice body with nice mellow creamy textures.

My opinion: This wine is on the mellow side in terms of pronounced flavours. However there is a wonderful balance between acidity, citrus flavours and oak. It also has a wonderful nose (aroma) of peach, pear and cream that drove my senses wild when I first humoured my glass. (Humouring your wine is to swirl your wine around in your glass. This releases the esters and permits the bouquet of the wine to flourish and rise out of the glass making the aromas more pronounced. This enables you to really appreciate the aroma of the wine.)

My rating: 75/100 - This is a great wine.

2008 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay – $18.95

Visual: Honey Golden.

Aroma: Buttery popcorn and Butterscotch.

Flavour: Heavy body with a velvet texture. There are bold cream flavours of butter and butterscotch that pare very well with buttery popcorn, fettuccini alfredo or crab and lobster with butter. There is also a nice acidity that sits in the background; the massive body with its creamy flavours and textures is the pronounced flavour and characteristic of this wine.

My opinion: This is a great wine if you like big bold butter, butterscotch and oak flavours. I love a wine with nice oaky flavours thats well integrated within the wine. Having a bold wine such as this to pear with buttery popcorn or fettuccini alfredo is a special treat.

My rating: 78/100 – This is a great wine.

2007 Deans List Chardonnay – $27.95

Visual: Extremely clear and crisp.

Aroma: Creamy butter and butterscotch with nice aromas of peach and lime.

Flavour: Nice integration between oak flavours and citrus. Very well balanced. Nice crisp acidity. The body and complexity of this wine is incredible and can be aged for 9 to 10 years without a problem.

My judgment: 80/100 – this is a wonderful wine.

My opinion: This is a wonderful wine. There is a wonderful balance of flavour. The oak is well integrated among the other flavours. It is also extremely crisp, clear and very refreshing. This wine can compete with any of the top Chardonnays that I have tasted from Southbrook and Inniskillin.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pilliteri Estates Winery

(Photograph taken by Tracy Carreau)

Pilliteri Estates is a family run winery that opened its doors in 1993. The winery is Canada's largest estate producer of Icewine. What makes Pilliteri an Estate Winery is the fact that they have over 12 acres of vineyards on same property of the winemaking facility.

I tasted and judged their 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay and their 2007 Sur Lie Chardonnay.

2007 Unoaked Chardonnay - $10.00

Visual: Light straw, crisp and very clear

Aroma: Lime, peach and pear.

Flavour: Very fresh with hints of lime, pear and tropical fruit with nice acidity.

My opinion: This wine was descent for an Unoaked Chardonnay. I didn’t find that there was very much flavour to it. However, because there was nice acidity it was very refreshing. For $10 a bottle you can’t go wrong.

My rating: 70/100

2007 Sur Lie Chardonnay - $15.00

Visual: Light straw.

Aroma: Nice nose, creamy, nutty with a hint of caramel and hazelnut.

Flavour: Very smooth, very nice and vibrant acidity, light cream with a hint of tropical fruit.

My opinion: Very nice acidity and a wicked nose (aroma). This wine promises to become better with a couple years under its belt. However, it’s a well-priced Chardonnay for the quality.

My rating: 75/100

Monday, March 8, 2010

Southbrook Vineyards

(photograph taken by Kevin Brochu)

The Southbrook Vineyards

farming philosophy is quite different then the other vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This is because Southbrooks vineyard and winery is organic and biodynamic-certified. Biodynamic Agriculture is a method of organic farming that uses homeopathic manures and composts. They also use a holistic farming approach and focuses on the relationship between soil, plants and animals as an inter-dependent system that feeds off one another. Lastly, they also refer to the astronomical planting calendar for all their farming chores.

I judged and tasted there 2007 Triomph Chardonnay, 2006 Triomph Chardonnay, 2000 Triomph Chardonnay and the 2007 Poetica Chardonnay.

2007 Triomph Chardonnay – $21.95

Visual: Light straw.

Aroma: Faint aroma of pear, almonds and faint caramel.

Flavour: Crisp acidity, baked apples, citrus fruit, and nuts. It is also well balanced with a clean finish.

My opinion: Although the 2007 Triomph Chardonnay is young it is still very good. It showed great complexity, flavour and aroma for a whine so young. The flavour was well balanced with lots a acidity and great citrus fruit.

My rating: 80/100

2006 Triomph Chardonnay – $23.95

Visual: Straw.

Aroma: Butterscotch, hazelnut and pears.

Flavour: Velvety, buttery, thick, well layered, nice crisp acidity, very creamy with a nice smooth finish.

My opinion: This is an amazing wine. It was extremely well layered with loads of complexity. It displayed nice crisp acidity with creamy textures and flavours such as butterscotch, vanilla, butter and hazelnut. The great luscious body finished off smoothly and had a nice lingering finish.

My rating: 90/100

2000 Triomph Chardonnay– $33.95

Visual: Golden Honey.

Aroma: Citrus, pineapple, faint cream with a strong aroma of hazelnut.

Flavour: Very smooth, very well structured, creamy hazelnut and roasted almonds with a hint of citrus.

My opinion: This is a very good and well-aged wine. Because it is 10 years old it was extremely smooth and elegant. It was buttery and had a velvet texture. It also had an amazing nose with hints of pineapple and strong hazelnut.

My rating: 85/100

2007 Poetica Chardonnay– $50.00

Visual: Light straw.

Aroma: Tangerine, peach, lemon zest and a hint of hazelnut.

Flavour: Extremely crisp, very smooth, tangerine, peach, lemon, pineapple, apple hint of butter and hazelnut.

My Opinion: This is an amazing wine. I would never pay $50 for a bottle of wine. However, in this case I would make an exception. This wine displays numerous citrus flavours that linger long after you’ve swallowed. Its complexity is insurmountable with anything else that I have tasted in the Niagara region. The aroma is intense and displays hints of numerous tropical fruit and hazelnut.

My Rating: 95/100

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

(Photograph taken by Kevin Brochu)

Jackson-Triggs is the flagship of Vincor International, which owns numerous wineries all over Canada including Inniskillin, Le Clos Jardanne and See Ya Later Ranch in British Columbia. Whereas Inniskilin focuses on Ice Wine, Jackson-Triggs’s main focus is on red and white table wines.

Although there are many red wines that Jackson-Triggs produce that I absolutely adore such as the 2007 Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc and the 2007 Delaine Vineyard Syrah, both of which I highly recommend. I will try to stay on point and keep the focus of my blog on Niagara Region Chardonnays. Therefore, I tasted and judged the 2008 Grand Reserve Chardonnay and the 2008 Delaine Vineyard Chardonnay.

2008 Grand Reserve Chardonnay – $19.95

Visual: Straw colour

Aroma: Toasty oak, baked almonds and hazelnut.

Flavour: Citrus fruit, creamy, well layered, lots of acidity, vanilla, hazelnut, butterscotch and a smooth clean finish.

My opinion: I have always been a big supporter of the Jackon-Triggs Grand Reserve Chardonnay. It is a very high quality wine that is well balanced with great acidity. The full malolactic fermentation always complements this wine nicely with creamy flavours of vanilla, butter, hazelnut and baked almonds. For those who do not know what malolactic fermentation is, it’s when the fermentation process happens within an oak barrel instead of a stainless steel tank. The malolactic fermentation is a wonderful technique to use when making Chardonnay as it gives the wine more creamy flavours and textures by transforming the malolactic acid into lactic acid. Malolactic acid is commonly found within grape juice or “grape must” and is created through the original lactic fermentation which gives fruity citrus flavours. Unfortunately, the 2008 Grand Reserve Chardonnay was not the best vintage for this wine. I much prefer the 2007 as I have an entire 12-bottle case hidden away. The 2007 Grand Reserve Chardonnay won a Gold medal at Vinitaly out of 4500 different Chardonnay from all over the world. This just proves the quality of Chardonnay that we’re able to produce in the Niagara Region as well as the superior quality of Jackson-Triggs wines. Therefore, the 2008 Grand Reserve Chardonnay is a great Chardonnay, however it is no comparison to its predecessor.

My rating: 85/100 – Although it’s not as good as the 2007, it’s still among the best.

2008 Delaine Vineyard Chardonnay – $21.95

Visual: Straw colour.

Aroma: Hazelnut, citrus, oak.

Flavour: Heavy oak, and citrus.

My opinion: The Delaine vineyard is located in the 4-mile creek appellation. I find that Chardonnays that come from this appellation tend to be heavily oaked and posses a green pea flavour that I don’t find appetizing. For those who like a heavy oak flavour similar to what might come out of Napa Valley, then this wine might be for you. I on the other hand, enjoy a Chardonnay with a little more elegance and complexity with a nice smooth creamy flavour. Regrettably, these are characteristics that the Delaine Vineyard Chardonnay does not posses.

My rating: 70/100 – The Delaine Vineyard is their top tiered wine. However, I much prefer the Grand Reserve.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Coyote's Run
(Photograph taken by Kevin Brochu)

The one unique aspect of Coyotes Run that sets them apart of every other winery in the Niagara Peninsula is their use of soil. Whereas most wineries don’t touch their soil to display the flavour of the “terroir”, Coyotes Run has engineered their soil to make two different distinct wines. They drew a line that divides their vineyard separating the two different soils that they use. The first half is composed of dark black clay that is common to the Niagara Peninsula and gives rich and earthy flavours and aromas. The other side of the vineyard is composed of red soil that is not common to the area, and gives flavours and aromas like fruit and sweet perfumes. Their soil-segregated vineyard can be used in two different ways. The first way is to produce separate wines that come from different soils in order to emphasize the impact that soil has on the wine. The second way to utilize having two distinct soils is by blending varietals (type of grape) that come from different soils in order to produce a wine with more depth and complexity.

I tasted and judged the 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay and the 2008 Black Paw Vineyard Chardonnay.

2008 Unoaked Chardonnay - $14.95

Visual: Light Straw.

Aroma: Faint aroma of pear and citrus with some floral notes.

Flavour: Citrus fruit, pear, tangerine, well-rounded with a great acidity balance.

My Opinion: I had extremely high expectations walking into Coyotes Run because I have always heard wonderful things, especially surrounding the use of their two different soils. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with what I found. I have a feeling that people held this winery in high regards for their reds and not their Chardonnays. In my opinion, although their Chardonnays were descent, they did not stand out in a region that specializes in Chardonnay. The 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay was still very young. As a result, the aroma was very faint and the flavour was not as pronounced as it will be in a year or so. However, there were some nice fruit flavours with a nice acidity balance. To be honest, the 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay wasn’t anything special.

My Rating: 65/100 - I do not recommend this wine.

2008 Black Paw Vineyard Chardonnay - $21.99

Visual: Light Straw.

Aroma: Faint aroma of cream, hazelnut and butterscotch.

Flavour: Well layered and velvety, little bitter, nice acidity, citrus, nice hazelnut with a long lingering finish.

My opinion: This wine is very young but has lots of potential. I really enjoyed the aroma. Although it was faint, the aroma of cream, hazelnut and butterscotch gave me a very warm and comforting feeling. The flavour was very surprising because there was a mix of good and bad attributes. Starting with the negative, the flavour was very faint and it was a little bitter. However, the bitterness could indicate that the wine is going through a state of bottle shock. Essentially, bottle shock is a state of unsettled shock that the wine goes through when recently bottled. This gives the wine a very bitter and acidic flavour. The positive aspects regarding flavour are that it is very well layered and displays a velvety texture with a nice hazelnut and citrus flavour with a long lingering finish. The long lingering finish tells me that this wine is of very high quality. Rule of thumb, the longer the flavour lingers and stays with you, the better the wine is. Sharp abrupt finishes is a sign of a lower quality wine.

My Rating: 70/100 – Give this wine a year or so to age and my rating of 70 might become a 75 or 80.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Inniskillin Winery
(Photograph taken by Kevin Brochu)

Inniskllin Wines is by far the most famous and world-renowned Canadian Winery. Inniskillin’s founders, Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo were the first to use premium Vitis Vinifera grapes in Canada. They opted out from using the Concord grape, which was the standard grape to use at the time. Vitis Vinifera grapes have higher levels of acidity and sugar and are more delicate then Concord grapes. These higher levels give the wine much more complexity, however the grapes are difficult to grow in Niagara's cool climate. In 1975, Inniksllin was the first winery to be granted a winery license in Ontario. Although Inniskllin is known for producing the best Ice wine in the world, they also make world-class Chardonnay. Because the Niagara Region is a cool climate it provides the ideal temperature for growing Chardonnay grapes. This is why the Niagara Region produces some of the best Chardonnay in the world.

I tasted and judged the 2007 Reserve Series Chardonnay, 2008 Montague Vineyard Chardonnay, 2007 Wine Makers Series Chardonnay and the 2007 Founders Series Chardonnay.

2007 Reserve Series Chardonnay – 14.95$

Visual: Golden honey.

Aroma: Pear, vanilla, very floral and hazelnut.

Flavour: Crisp acidity, clean finish, baked apples, cinnamon, baked almonds, nice fruit and oak balance.

My opinion: This is a phenomenal wine. It is very well layered with very good floral and creamy aromas. The flavour was very well balanced with a well layered body. There was a lot of baked apples, cinnamon, baked almonds and creamy oaky flavours. The 2007 Reserve Series Chardonnay is a very good buy especially at 14.95$ a bottle.

My rating: 78/100 – I highly recommend this wine.

2008 Montague Vineyard Chardonnay– 18.95$

Visual: Dark straw colour.

Aroma: Toasty oak, apple and pear.

Flavour: Velvet texture, big body, hint of butterscotch, very well structured, pineapple, apple and spicy oak.

My opinion: This wine has a very well structured body with a nice velvet and smooth finish. There is nice oak and apple aroma on the nose with a lovely spicy oak, butterscotch and pineapple flavour. Even though this wine is till relatively young it displays a nice flavour and aroma. The 2008 Montague Vineyard is still a nice wine for the price. However, it still needs a little bit of time to age until it reaches its true potential.

My rating: 73/100 – This is an ok wine.

2007 Wine Makers Series Chardonnay – 17.95$

Visual: Dark straw colour.

Aroma: Toasty oak, caramel, butterscotch, cinnamon and citrus fruit.

Flavour: Butter, vanilla, butterscotch and citrus fruit.

My opinion: The 2007 Wine Makers Series Chardonnay is a well-balanced Chardonnay with a very nice aroma. I could sit down and smell this wine all day without even drinking it. The aroma of butterscotch, cinnamon, citrus fruit and toasty oak is almost overpowering. The flavour is also nice displaying rich creams and nice citrus fruit, but it is not as dominant as the aroma. This is a very nice wine for 17.95$ and its one that I would go back and purchase.

My rating: 78/100 – I recommend this wine.

2007 Founders Series Chardonnay – 29.95$

Visual: Dark golden honey.

Aroma: Tropical fruit, vanilla, butterscotch and caramel.

Flavour: Toffee, butter, butterscotch, vanilla, hazelnut, baked almonds, nice acidity and very is full bodied.

My opinion: The aroma is astonishing, you can smell velvety creamy aromas, vanilla, butterscotch and tropical fruit. By smelling this wine, I was able to tell that there was a huge body and it was very complex. As I tasted, I immediately noticed a massive body displaying huge flavours of cream, butter, butterscotch, hazelnut, toffee, and baked apples. This wine is capable of competing with some of the best Chardonnays in the world and has the body and structure to age for 10-12 years minimum.

My rating: 90/100 – This wine is a must for special occasions. I highly recommend this wine.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ravine Vineyard
(Photograph taken by Kevin Brochu)

Ravine is one of my wineries of choice for Chardonnay. The reason for this is because of their soil. I believe that they have some of the best soil for grape growing in Niagara.The vineyard is located on a river channel that once existed thousands of years ago. This river channel connected old Lake Iroquois to the Niagara River and was a natural drainage system for water and iceberg pieces. The iceberg pieces and water were full of minerals and would bring up the soil underneath enriching it with nutrients.

I tasted and judged the 2008 Chardonnay and the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay.

2008 Chardonnay – 24$

Visual : light straw colour

Aroma : Musqué, pear, caramel, butterscotch

Flavour: sharp acidity, little bitter, sits well on the back of the palate, pear, little body

My opinion: I am very disappointed with the 2008 Ravine Chardonnay. The aroma and flavour were both very faint, there was little body and was not well layered. However, the very light straw colour indicates that it is a very young wine. With that in mind, the 2008 Chardonnay will definitely improve and gain some complexity over the next 2-5 years. However, for the time being the 2008 Chardonnay is not worth the 24$.

My rating: 60/100 – Not a good buy, not worth the price

2008 Reserve Chardonnay – 38$

Visual: light straw colour

Aroma: vanilla, lavender, very floral, butter, pineapple

Flavour: Full bodied, nice velvet texture, pear, tangerine, balanced acidity, tangerine, butter, caramel

My opinion: Because this is their Reserve series Chardonnay I am going into this tasting with high expectations. I am looking for a big well-rounded body, well-balanced acidity, a long lingering finish, and a complexity of fruit and creamy flavours. Unfortunately, I was once again disappointed. This 2008 Reserve Chardonnay was still too young to be tasted. There is a nice acidity balance, nice body and texture, good fruit flavours and some butter-caramel flavours but it was all very faint. The light straw colour as well as the faintness in aroma and flavour once again indicates that the wine is still very young age. A 38$ bottle of Chardonnay should be much more pronounced in flavour and aroma. This Chardonnay will need a minimum of 2-3 years until this $38 bottle is worth buying.

My rating: 65/100 – Not a good buy, not worth the price