It’s not often that one can say that there’s a new alcoholic beverage on the market with a great back story. But take a look at Portàge, produced by Potter Settlement Wines in Tweed, Ontario.
The winery owner, Sandor Johnson, explains it as “the beverage that was produced through extreme vinification of port wine that was frozen and then maderized in Sherry barrels in ‘The Land of the Midnight Sun’ during the McClure Arctic Expedition of 1850.”
In an article Sandor wrote for Grapevine Magazine, he tells how his winery produced Portàge, described on the label as a “1 Year Tawny.”
“We made it. Left it outside in January at –20C to freeze. Then we kept it in barrels in the July sunshine of +30C to cook and oxidize like a Madeira…” (You can find the story of the wine on YouTube, titled “Portáge: The Greatest Wine & Cheese Story Ever Told.”
The product’s label tells the story of the McClure Expedition with images of how the sailors transported a pipe of port, originally purchased from Fortnum & Mason in London, across the Arctic where it froze and then baked in the sun.
And how does it taste? Here are my notes: Bright bronze-gold in colour; a spirit-y nose (20% alcohol) of charred orange peel with oak spice and coffee bean notes. Flavours of sultanas and orange; elegant and beautifully balanced. Long on the palate with a lovely mouth-feel. (93)
It costs $95 a bottle.
Other wines tasted: six wines from Gray Monk Estate Winery in Lake County, BC.
Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2020
Pink-gold colour; minerally, peach pit nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted white peach flavour; well balanced, lovely mouth-feel. Drink now and through 2022. (90)
Gray Monk Odyssey Traditional Brut 2018
Pale straw colour; active mousse of tiny bubbles; apple and pear bouquet with crusty bread notes; light to medium-bodied, crisply dry, Granny Smith apple flavour with lemony acidity and a hint of almond on the finish. Good length. Drink now and through 2022. (90)
Gray Monk Odyssey Merlot 2018
Ruby-purple in colour; cedary, Bing cherry nose with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, mocha chocolate and plum flavours; well-structured, with well-integrated oak and pliant tannins. Drink now or hold a couple of years. (90)
Gray Monk Cabernet Merlot 2019
Opaque purple in colour; blueberry bouquet with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, blueberry and black plum flavours with bay leaf notes; beautifully balanced and firmly structured with a juicy plum finish. Hold to 2023 to soften the tannins. (89–90)
Gray Monk Monk’s Blend 2020
73% Syrah, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dense purple in colour; cedary, savoury blackberry nose with a smoky note; medium-bodied, dry, spicy blackberry and dried herb flavours; firmly structured, finishing on a note of bitter chocolate. Can be enjoyed now but will reward cellaring for a couple of years. (91)
Gray Monk Odyssey Cabernet Franc 2018
Deep purple in colour; spicy, oaky nose of blueberry and blackcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted, juicy flavours of plum and blackcurrant carried on fresh acidity to a pleasing finish of ripe tannins and blackberries. Drinking well now but will reward a year or two in your cellar. (89–91)