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MichaelPinkusWineReview Newsletter #261
WineReview: The Results - Cabernet Franc vs Pinot Noir Throw Down
Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New and Noteworthy Wine
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WineReview: The Results - Cabernet Franc vs Pinot Noir Throw Down
Howdy sports fans, Michael Pinkus here reporting for Michael Pinkus Wine Review.com on the Pinot Noir versus Cabernet Franc Throw Down, an epic battle between the two titan reds of Ontario – in one corner the Heartbreak Kid: Pinot Noir, in the other, the willy veteran: Cabernet Franc.
Ontario has always laid claim to 4 grape varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc (with some other grape varieties lying in wait: Gamay? Syrah? Pinot Gris?) but the fabulous foursome keep popping up on everybody’s lips, hearts and minds – and so we pitted two of the mainstays against one another in a battle to determine which grape would come out on top in 3 categories: on their own, as a food pairing partner and finally, best overall wine of the night … it all took place during a five course dinner, I mean, five round fight to the finish.
I trust you have all seen the food served up at the event as Wellington Court Restaurant in St. Catharines played host and award winning chef Erik Peacock played ringmaster – you can see the course and pictures here.
The bell rings and we’re off – the first ever Ontario Grape Challenge Throw Down: Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Franc …
Round 1: Cave Spring Cellars
The Cave put up both their estate Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc from the 2012 vintage – this become a no contest battle in the taste alone category as the Franc won handily all by its lonesome, but when paired with the Carpaccio, charred squid + sour apricot salad the Pinot Noir totally outshone the Cabernet Franc.
Judges Call: Drinking – Cabernet Franc … Pairing – Pinot Noir
Round 2: Flat Rock vs Vineland
When you talk titans there are no bigger proponents of their chosen grape then these two. Flat Rock specializes in Pinot Noir, going as far as bottling clonal experiments with the grape; Vineland is a Cabernet Franc house where the winemaker has gone on an all-out-assault of the senses making Franc his number one red, so this battle was seen as a clash of the titans. The Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir (2012) edged the Vineland Reserve Cabernet Franc (2012) by just 3 votes in the tasting part of the battle; but wouldn’t you know it, they tied in the food pairing portion (Roasted Pork Shoulder, tiny tomato salad, tomato vinaigrette).
Judges Call: Drinking – Pinot Noir … Pairing – Draw
Round 3: Lailey Vineyard
This round was the exact opposite of the first round. Here the now in flux Lailey Vineyard and their former-winemaker decided to pit an Old Vines Pinot Noir (2009) against a more recent incarnation of a Cabernet Franc (2013). The Pinot Noir inched passed the Cabernet Franc as the wine our judges preferred to drink on its own (by a single vote), while the Cabernet Franc was the unanimous decision for food pairing (Duck Confit, mushroom mozzarella arancini)
Judges Call: Drinking – Pinot Noir … Pairing – Cabernet Franc
Round 4: Rosewood Estates
For those of you keeping score we really have a very close battle on our hands going into this round, with both grapes holding a pairing and a tasting point with Pinot Noir holding onto a sli one point lead in the tasting camp. This round saw Cabernet Franc roar back to tie the tasting portion with Rosewood putting up their Origin Cabernet Franc (2013) versus their Select Pinot Noir (2012). But Pinot Noir grabs back the lead, this time it’s in the Pairing category taking the lamb course by one vote over the Cabernet Franc.
Judges Call: Drinking – Cabernet Franc … Pairing – Pinot Noir
Round 5: Coyote’s Run
Heading into this round it’s close, really close … and the pressure is mounting. Cabernet Franc carries 2 tasting points and 1 pairing point into the round, while Pinot Noir also holds 2 tasting points but holds a lead in the pairing category with 2 points; will Franc make this even closer by taking at least one point in the round?
And this is where things got interesting, as the drama of the night unfolded in this very crucial round: Coyote’s Run has picked their most recent release of 2012 Rare Vintage Cabernet Franc to showcase, and has scheduled a 2012 Red Paw Pinot Noir to enter the ring; but a last minute switcheroo has now put the 2010 Rare Vintage Pinot Noir on the docket. The main judge and Cabernet Franc fan (yours truly) cries “ringer”; while owner of Coyote’s Run, and Pinot Noir enthusiast, Jeff Aubry, pleads ignorance and an error by winery staff, for the change in combatants … and so the round continues (under protest might I add).
The result was a sweep for Pinot Noir taking both the Tasting and Food Pairing points. I try to sway the others by saying the Franc needs time, while the Pinot Noir is drinking perfectly right now: “give that Franc another two years and it’s a fair fight,” I add, but to no avail, my arguments fall on deaf ears and after all the votes are tallied Pinot Noir wins the evening: Drinking: 3 – Pairing: 3.
As for the wine of the night, there really was no competition there, even by combining all the other wines points they could not measure up to the number of judges who voted for the Coyote’s Run 2010 Rare Vintage Pinot Noir.
So the first battle goes to Pinot Noir, but don’t count Cabernet Franc out quite yet, its showing was strong, but not strong enough. Will we try a rematch next year – or will we call out 2 other worthy competitors into the octagon? The jury is still out; but for now we’ll let the winner take its victory lap and the vanquished to lick its wounds in the corner … for the time being.
Thank You …
To all who attended and voted – you put your palate to the test to judge food and wine, in the ultimate sacrifice … I know it was hard, but someone had to do it
To all the wineries that participated with their wines – without them we could not have had such amazing event.
To Coyote’s Run, who helped facilitate the event .
And finally to Wellington Court and Chef Erik Peacock for their hospitality and amazing food.
13th Street 2012 Syrah, Essence - $44.95 (W)
The moment I’m ready to write 13th Street off as a has-been winery they pull off some magic with something like this delightful Syrah, which spent 14 months in oak, and in so doing has developed, as you’d expect, a cool climate Syrah to die for. Smoky, meaty character with peppery notes on the back end … the palate shows those meaty and pepper elements with hints of red fruits in the form of raspberry peaking around the corner. With time this wine will prove itself to be a real blockbuster, but for now it’s exactly what Syrah from our cool climate should be: meaty, smoky and peppery. Price: $44.95 – Rating: ****+
16 Mile Cellar 2012 Chardonnay, Rebel - $19.95 (W)
16 Mile Cellar may have won the Ontario Wine Award with their 2011 Civility Chardonnay but the one’s they have in the pipe-line are looking like real winners too. Take this 2012 Rebel, considered their “lower end” but it has such high end flavours and aromas: coconut, apple, peach and clarified butter aromas greet the nose leading to a silky palate full of peach, apple, butter, gentle spice and burnt meringue all backed by good acidity for balance. That’s a whole lotta love for under 20 bucks. Price: $19.95 – Rating: ****+
Huff Estates 2012 Merlot, South Bay unfiltered – $40.00 (W)
Years ago winemaker Frederic Picard told me to forget Pinot Noir, Merlot would be the calling card of Huff. Fast forward and we see Huff winning awards for their Pinot and traditional sparkling … but the Merlot??? Well, in 2012 mother nature decided to help Frederic out with his dream … enter this Huff Merlot from their South Bay property – this one is really meaty with cassis, blueberry and wood smoke; tannins are a little raw at the moment but are tame-able with air or time (say 4+ years). The finish is long with smoky-dark fruit … finally a Merlot Fred can hang his hat on. Price: $40.00 – Rating: ****+
Karlo Estates 2013 Sangiovese - $36.00 (W)
This is a special bottle if only for its significance to the winery. This is the last wine that Richard Karlo finished before his passing and the last new label he okayed – the symbol of eternal love – and with it he has left behind an incredible legacy. That would all mean nothing if the wine wasn’t worth drinking (plenty of good stories go on before the wine gets in the bottle) – Good news: the wine is impressive both inside and out. Wild fermented Niagara-on-the-Lake fruit has produced nice cherry, oak and a pretty floral element all backed by good acidity. Price: $36.00 – Rating: ****
Keint-he 2013 Gamay Noir, Voyageur - $25.00 (W)
Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute – the last place I expected to get good Gamay from was a County winery … but this one really caught my tongue by surprise. Let’s start with its pedigree though: the fruit comes from Malivoire in Niagara – arguably the leader in Gamay these days. Winemaker Ross Wise then created a red and black cherry number that has hints of white pepper on the finish for balance. Give this one a slight chill (20 mins) and you’ve got yourself a real beauty in the glass. Price: $25.00 – Rating: ****+
Stratus 2012 Tollgate Red - $19.95 (W)
The typical kitchen sink assemblage Stratus is known for is on full display here in this second (or third) tier wine, and it’s outstanding value makes it all the more worthwhile: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Gamay, Syrah, Tannat, it’s all in there plus I’m sure other grapes make an appearance in minor percentages. Great spicy notes along with cassis, pepper and blackberry which ends with vanilla and dark fruit – but this wine has more to offer and will show it more with time in both glass and bottle … and did I mention it’s a juicy little number and very non-aggressive, so it’s ready to drink now but will definitely benefit from a few years on the rack in the cellar. Price: $19.95 – Rating: ****+
Thirty Bench 2013 Riesling, Triangle Vineyard - $30.00 (W)
Triangle Vineyard Riesling is usually my favourite of the Thirty Bench Riesling offerings – but this year it was supplanted by Steel Post … but that does not mean Triangle was in any way bad or worse, just different. This Riesling is made from the oldest vines planted on the property (1981). Aromas are nicely peachy, green apple and florified (full of floral). Palate shows mineral, peach pit, lemon pith and a sweetness to acidity balance that shows a nice character; add in the long finish and you’ve got a real winner. Price: $30.00 – Rating: ****
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