Newsletter #263 - Watch What Happens

10 Sep 2015

MichaelPinkusWineReview Newsletter #263

            September 10, 2015

  • WineReview: Watch What Happens

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: Last of the Summer Roses

  • Weekly Wine Video Series:  A Recap of The Week in Videos

  • Bi-Weekly OWR Updates:  Additional Articles and more

  • Wine Event Spotlight:  See What's Going on in Wine Country

WineReview:  Watch What Happens

Hinterbrook, Joseph’s, Marynissen, Alvento, Lailey – all wineries in Niagara that have seen a major shake-up of ownership over the past few years; in fact it is reported that about 8 or so wineries have seen new ownership, which potentially can be seen as a good thing:  a revitalized interest in wineries in Ontario’s largest growing area.

Now before I go any further, I’m sure this topic is going to spark some controversy and some of the comments I’ll make might come off a tad inflammatory, but hear me out over the next few paragraphs.

The majority of these wineries have been purchased by those of Oriental decent, namely Chinese interests, who see exporting Ontario Icewine back to the homeland as a path paved with gold … On the positive side this provides wineries and workers with jobs, another bonus is that Icewine is still being made here at home, instead of being falsified, forged, misappropriated, and wrongly-labelled elsewhere; and some longtime growers and owners are finally cashing-in after a lifetime of tilling the soil, and growing the grapes to make the wines we all know and love … but at what cost to the industry and reputation of Ontario wine?

We have been battling a snake-belly-low reputation for years – one that never lets us forget we put Baby Duck and inferior Baco Noirs (with apologies to Henry of Pelham) into bottle.  Now we have some of our most beloved names (namely Lailey and Marynissen) seemingly on the brink of becoming Icewine houses. The fear here is that Ontario will be bought up by foreign interests and our wines moved off-shore, and most, if not all our grapes used for the purpose of making Icewine – for all intents and purposes killing off our quality domestic dry wine production.  

These fears were realized once again in July after reports were confirmed that Lailey had been sold.  They then closed their doors for “renovations”, subsequently re-opened to sell their remaining inventory, and netted their entire 2015 crop to be used in the production of Icewine … As the French say, “quel domage!” (what a pity) – those beautiful old vines of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, that fantastic Syrah, the Sauvignon Blanc … all the grapes that were lovingly nurtured so that they produced the fruit to make wines full of terroir / character will go into lifeless sweet Icewine.  Frustration and dismay were echoed time and time again on Twitter and FaceBook with the hashtag “RIPLailey”.

Marynissen, another winery with a formerly stellar reputation, has seen its wines become a shadow of their former selves – once prized for having the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon in the province – as well as other deep rooted Bordeaux varietals – now they make barely passable plonk (based on my last portfolio tasting in early 2015), with Icewine being the best of the lot (2013 Cab Franc Icewine). I have been told that the newest owner is wanting to turn it around, but is it too little too late? Should he just retire the name and start again? It sure would be easier than trying to live up to that Marynissen legacy.

On the other hand, there are wineries like Hinterbrook, on the Niagara Parkway, who barely had time to make a reputation for itself, though their Franc Blanc under winemaker Natalie Spytkowski did make quite the splash. Alvento found themselves in a similar boat (gone too soon), and reports that DiProfio might be next are also making the rounds.  

Then there are wineries like Joseph’s, which barely had a reputation to up-hold, we can only call their sale what it truly is: a “fresh start” - any new direction here is better than what it was.  Royal DeMaria, is also reportedly up for sale, now they would be perfect for foreign interests – as they are already an Icewine-only house – problem is if they have over-priced the winery like they do their wines then it’s no wonder it won’t sell. And Crown Bench, which I understand will be closing at the end of the year, would be a perfect candidate for purchase and Icewine production; heck, I (and many others) already thought they were closed, so it would be like starting afresh.

But let’s focus our attention on those serious longtime wine producers who are selling out … trust me I understand the need to make money from your investment and years of hard work – but at what cost to the industry you helped build? Does that not get taken into consideration? Or is it all about selling to the highest bidder and history be damned.  I guess we’ll all just have to sit back and watch what happens … and while we’re at it, enjoy a good glass of table wine from Ontario while we still can.


Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  Last of the Summer Roses

13th Street 2013 Cabernet Franc Rosé - $17.95 (W)
Rosé is a tough proposition in Ontario, yes it’s easy to make, but do you go sweet or dry or somewhere down the middle? Here 13th Street winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas straddles the line with plenty of upfront fruit (made with grapes that were always destined for rosé production) – then finishes with great acid bite making for a drier than expected, but very welcome, finish.  Price: $17.95 – Rating: ****

Cattail Creek 2014 Rosé, Serendipity - $15.95 (W, L)
The nose has plenty of strawberry and that lures you into the glass and you’re hoping you’ll get that nice hit of red berry on the palate … you do, along with cherry backing and a finish that closes out dry.  Quite refreshing and very summery.  Price: $15.95 - Rating: ****

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Rosé, Cuvee d’Andree - $14.95 (W)
Simple yet satisfying, which is a perfect place to be when you’re drinking rosé. Pretty red berries with subtle cranberry and a dry finish … winemaker Amelie Boury is really making a statement with her Rosés at the Chateau and she has in the last 3 vintages when they became all Pinot Noir.  Price: $14.95 – Rating: ****

Hidden Bench 2013 Rosé, Locust Lane - $19.95 (W)
An interesting blend for a rosé here in Ontario with 85% Pinot Noir (not atypical) but then with about 10% Malbec and 5% Viognier – now those aren’t the usual grapes you see in a rosé: there are cherry and tropical notes abound with a nice raspberry after-taste – which starts in the mid-palate and all held together with good acidity and a dry finish; well-balanced and very accessible, despite the oddball grapes.  Price: $19.95 - Rating: ****

Honsberger 2014 Rosé - $17.95 (W)
A totally different winemaking practice in the making of this 2014 Rosé (from the 2013), one which I urge winemaker Kelly Mason to duplicate in years to come.  In comparison to the 2013 version this one is more vibrant and fruity – nose has aromas of raspberry and strawberry with hints of lime pith to balance the sweet berries.  Palate has fresh strawberry and raspberry with a hint of sweetness on the mid before finishing off dry with lively, mouth-pleasing acidity.  This rosé is like God’s gift to you for a hot summer day, or at least Kelly Mason’s.  Price: $17.95 – Rating: ****+

Vineland 2014 Rosé, The Game Changer - $16.95 (W)
First in a line of wines to show off Vineland’s new piece of state-of-the-art equipment:  an optical sorter for their grapes … it’s a pretty impressive piece of technology that will change the way fruit gets sorted and what get removed before the winemaking process really begins.  This 100% Cabernet Franc Rosé is the first wine released by Vineland using this piece of modern-magic.  The nose is cherry and peach while the palate follows the nose to a tee, adding grapefruit and lime on the finish … there does seem to be a little sweetness but maybe it’s more apparent than actual.  Price: $16.95 – Rating: ****

Availability legend:  W (Winery) – L (LCBO/Vintages) –  OL (On-Line)

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 Get FREE the Grape Guy Events App - Plus there are plenty of prizes to be won

The Weekly Wine Video Series: Local (Ontario); National (Across Canada) and International

The Weekly Wine Videos
Just as the name suggest … every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

Weekly Ontario Videos

Video #142 - Lailey 2013 Barrel Select Syrah (Niagara)
Video #143 - Two Sisters "Lush" Rose Sparkling (Niagara)

Weekly National & International Videos

Video #18 - Burrowing Owl 2011 Syrah (British Columbia, Canada)
Video #19 - Chateau de Monbadon 2010 (Bordeaux, France)

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Bi-Weekly OWR Updates Additional articles on the website and more

On the Road with the Grape Guy (blog)
(Trips, tours and tastings – join me as I review the highs, and sometimes, the lows)
Finger Lakes Tasting and WBC15
Nobilo Lunch and Icon Tasting
29 Wine Reviews / 16 Wineries: All Ontario
43 US Wine Reviews from 4 States

Taste it Again / Lost & Found (blog):  the two blogs have merged
(Find out what happened to some favourites and to those that never were tasted) 
Taste it Again:  Malivoire 2005 Pinot Noir, Beamsville Bench

Uncorked Tonight (blog)
When it’s not an Ontario wine, here’s what I’m pulling out of the cellar
New Posts Added

Vintages Release (blog)
September 5, 2015 - Available Now
September 19, 2015 - Available Now

 GRAPE GUY EVENTS Spotlight: See What's Going on in Wine Country

Grape Guy Events, highlights from the APP - points to be had:

Southbrook brings you the first ever Lamb Fest (September 19) and their next Oak Room Dinner (September 17)

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OntarioWineReview’s bi-weekly newsletter is devoted to the love, enjoyment and promotion of the wines of Ontario and the wineries that make them.

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