A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 451: Stowaway 1812

Sunday, June 30: Decided to do some tasting to reduce the number of bottles waiting for reviews.

  • STLTO Red 2012 (Central Italy – $12.15: Malbec and Merlot): ruby-purple colour; savoury nose of black fruits with a spicy note; dry, plum and prune flavours with lively acidity and enough tannin to give it structure. (86+)
  • Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2011 (Ontario – $19.95): light ruby colour; cherry and beetroot nose with a hint of oak spice; dry, light on the palate, dry, sinewy with a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2011 (Rapel Valley, Chile): deep ruby colour; minty, blackcurrant bouquet with a cedary note; dry , herbal, savoury flavour of blackcurrants with lively acidity. (87+)
  • Bodegas e Vinedos Labastida Montebuena Rioja 2010 ($14.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose with a light vanilla and spice note from oak; dry, nicely balanced, velvety mouth-feel, with a cherry flavour and a firm finish. (88)
  • Cava Velhas Enoport Topazio Douro 2009 (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca – $12.95): dense purple-ruby colour; woodsy, spicy mulberry nose; earthy, blackcurrant and prune flavours; short with an acidic, green finish. (85)
  • Robert Oatley Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($17.95): deep ruby-purple colour; smoky, cedar, blackcurrant nose; sweet blackcurrant fruit, medium to full-bodied, well balanced and textured with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Pietro Rinaldi Barbaresco San Cristoforo 2008 ($45.95): ruby with a tawny rim; roses, tar and dried cherries on the nose; dry, elegant and noble, seamless in the mouth, a note of pencil lead in the tannic finish. Hold 3–5 years (91).
  • Flat Rock Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 (Ontario – $16.95): salmon pink colour; a nose of wild strawberries; dry, strawberry flavour with citrus acidity. Refreshing and well made. (88)
  • STLTO Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 (Italy – $12.15): very pale straw with a green tint; minerally, green apple nose; crisp and dry with green apple flavour and citrus acidity. (87)
  • Red Rooster Pinot Gris 2012 (BC – $18): light straw colour; peach pit and citrus nose; grassy, white peach flavour, almost Sauvignon –like (young Pinot Gris vines?); medium-bodied, fresh, green plum and cut grass flavours. (88)
  • Joie Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 ($22.95): light straw colour; apple and pear nose; beautifully balanced flavours of orchard fruits, clean and true with a dramatic thrust of crab apple acidity on the finish. (89+)
  • Closson Chase Vineyard South Clos Chardonnay 2011 ($39.95): old gold colour; intense smoky, toasty oak and tropical fruit nose; spicy and full-bodied, fleshy and exuberant on the palate with smoky, flinty flavours of pineapple and melon with a nutty finish. A Chardonnay not for the faint of heart. (91)
  • Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 ($29.95): old gold colour: more restrained than the South Clos on the nose – in fact, Burgundian in style, minerally, apple and pear with a vanilla oak note; soft on the palate, nicely balanced with sweet red apple fruit, full-bodied with good length. (92)

Finished off this last wine with dinner (trout on the BBQ).

Monday, July 1: Canada Day. Wrote my 680News wine reviews. Had a call from Sophie Jump, the CEO of the International Wine Club Association in London. Representatives from this association who sell over 10 million cases of wine annually will be meeting in Montreal in November. She asked me if I would select and present Canadian wines at a dinner at Graziella Restaurant. Sounds like a lot of fun. In the evening Deborah and I were invited to a Canada Day party at our neighbours’, Alec and Bonnie, who have a large terrace from which we could watch the fireworks.

Tuesday, July 2: Wrote my Lexpert column on the history of wine cellars. Spoke to Sean Rowlands, whose company, Gradwell Wine Agency, imports South African wines, about products for Grapes for Humanity’s fund-raiser event in October. Dinner at our neighbour Sally’s, who prepared a delicious bowl of mussels in a tomato sauce, with Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

Wednesday, July 3: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then packed for an overnight trip to Windsor and Amherstburg. On VIA Rail I wrote a piece for Decanter magazine about Pinot Noir in Canada to go into their October issue that publishes the results of the Decanter World Wine Awards. Spent the night at the Windsor Hilton.

Thursday, July 4: Breakfast in the hotel with Kyra Knapp, War of 1812 Regional Project Facilitator. Kyra had asked me to write a piece for the press release on the project called Stowaway 1812.

Stowaway 1812

Six Lake Erie North Shore wineries have produced unique wines to commemorate the War of 1812 Bicentennial and the Coastal Trails: Sail to See Tall Ships Festival. These six VQA wines are bottled as the “Stowaway 1812” series and each features on its label the image of a different tall ship that plied the Great Lakes in the 1812 era. The Tall Ships from around the world will sail to 15 Ontario ports over the summer from June 14 to September 2nd, 2013.

Their majestic presence in our waters speak to an ancient tradition of ageing wines at sea. As early as the 16th century in Europe sailing ships transported wine from Madeira to India and China by way of the Cape of Good Hope. The hot temperatures as the ships crossed the equator and the incessant rolling action had a beneficial ageing effect on the wine. Like most advances in beverage alcohol technology the discovery of sea travel to improve the flavour of Madeira was accidental. But once discovered this technique of long sea voyages was used to speed up the maturing process of Madeira and port.

As a nod to this naval tradition and a salute to the War of 1812, the six participating wineries will contribute their Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend to a 100-litre barrel that will be subjected to a 13-day voyage on the Great Lakes in the hold of Liana’s Ransom. Flying the flag of the British Virgin Islands, Liana’s Ransom is a replica pirate ship – a gaff rigged, square top sail schooner. At the end of the voyage the wines will be bottled and auctioned off as collectors’ artifacts.

I had the opportunity to taste the Stowaway 1812 wines before they were released for sale at participating wineries.

Labels from the Stowaway 1812 series
Labels from the Stowaway 1812 series

  • Pelee Island Winery Stowaway 1812 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (the label depicts a two-masted Brig with square sails): The wine is pale lemon yellow in colour with a bouquet of cut grass and citrus fruits; nicely balanced flavours of green plum and white peach carried on fresh acidity. Medium-bodied and lingering on the palate.
  • Colio Estate Wines Stowaway 1812 Pinot Grigio 2012 (the label depicts a Despatch Schooner with fore-and aft sails): Pink-gold in colour, this Pinot Grigio has a minerally, peach pit nose with well extracted flavours of peach and apricot; soft, dry and full on the palate and easy drinking.
  • Smith & Wilson Stowaway1812 Viognier 2010 (the label depicts a Corvette, a three-masted ship all rigged with square sails): Bright, light straw in colour with a nose of honeysuckle and melon; spicy, melon and citrus flavours that fill the mouth. Good tension between sweet fruit and citrus acidity.
  • Oxley Estate Winery Stowaway 1812 Cabernet Franc 2012 (the label depicts a two-masted Topsail Schooner): This Cabernet Franc is ruby in colour with a bouquet of redcurrant and raspberries; medium-bodied, with ripe tannins and a velvety mouth-feel. Nicely balanced with enough tannin on the finish to give the wine structure.
  • Sprucewood Shores Stowaway 1812 Deux Rouge 2011 (the label depicts a single-masted Sloop): A blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. A nose of cherry pit and leather with a floral top note; dry, fruity, medium-bodied with cherry and redcurrant flavours. Supple tannins.
  • Cooper’s Hawk Cabernet Merlot 2008 (the label depicts The Snow Rig, square sails on both masts with a small trysail mast): Deep ruby colour with a mature rim; cedar on the nose, oak spice with nuances of red and blackcurrant. Dry with red berry fruit flavours and a dark chocolate note. Well balanced and good length.

(All wines except the Cooper’s Hawk are under screwcap.)

Sculpture commemorating the Battle of Lake Erie in Amherstburg
Sculpture commemorating the Battle of Lake Erie in Amherstburg

The press launch for the Stowaway 1812 tall ships event was held at the Provincial Marine Commissariat in King’s Navy Yard Park, Amherstburg. A commemorative sculpture of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 stands in a the grounds and history buffs dressed in authentic costumes of the time discharged a 3 lb muzzle-loading brass cannon (my ears are still ringing from the noise). After the speeches we sampled the six wines involved in the project.

Preparing to fire the ceremonial cannon
Preparing to fire the ceremonial cannon

The firing
The firing

After the press conference Kyra drove me to Oxley Estate in East Harrow for a tasting and lunch. The winery, in very welcoming contemporary style, is a refurbished 1920 tobacco barn. The proprietor, Ann Nedon Wilson, told me they had grapes and made wine from their two-year-old vines in 2011! Their website has profiles of not only the key people in the winery but the farm workers as well.

  • Oxley Estate Chardonnay 2012: very pale colour; light, apple nose; creamy mouth feel with apple, herbs and fennel flavour. (87)
  • Oxley Estate Chardonnay 2011 (second leaf fruit): light, floral, apple nose; surprising intensity of fruit flavour; light and delicate, dry Asian pear flavour. (88)
  • Oxley Estate Riesling 2012: almost water white; aromatic, minerally, spicy melon nose; off-dry but finishing dry with grapefruit, lemon and honey flavours. (87)
  • Oxley Estate Rosé 2012: pink with a bluish tint; floral, cherry nose; soft mouth-feel, easy drinking, strawberry and orange flavours. (87)
  • Oxley Estate Pinot Noir 2011 (second leaf fruit): light ruby colour; lifted cherry nose; dry, light and high-toned flavours of cherries and cherry pits. (87)
  • Oxley Cabernet Franc 2011 (second leaf fruit): light ruby colour; raspberry candy nose; light and elegant, raspberry flavour with a floral grace note. (88)

After lunch (breaded perch), Kyra dropped me at Windsor Station for the train-ride back to Toronto.

Friday, July 5: A Vintages release tasting. Had to have my photo taken for a pass into the LCBO building – new security system.

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