Newsletter #288 - Sleeper Vintage

12 Jul 2018

 Newsletter #288 

July 12, 2018


  • WineReview: Sleeper Vintage

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New & Noteworthy Wines

  • Weekly Wine Video SeriesA Recap of The Latest Videos

  • Ontario Wine UpdatesRe-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

WineReview:  Sleeper Vintage

People are always asking me my favourite wine or grape variety – I’m even asked my Desert Island wine at times … but this is not about any of those – today I want to let you in on a little secret that may have passed you by and it’s best to let you know now before it’s too late.

If you have been talking to anybody about Ontario wines the number 2016 has been popping up a lot and mostly about how good the vintage was, actually the word most associated is “great” … a great vintage in Ontario is defined as any vintage where all the red varieties ripened, we can do whites every year, but it’s those reds we can have some trouble with, and when a vintage comes along like 2010, 2012 or 2016 people freak-the-F-out. But here’s the secret that seems to be evading a lot of people’s radar: 2015 was a great vintage too.

Yup, 2015 is a sleeper in my eyes – it’s rare that Ontario gets two great vintages back-to-back, the last I can think of was 2001 / 2002, but 2001 was marred by ladybug taint (aka: pyrazine) and so has been removed from the records as a “great” vintage – it has mostly gone down as a learning experience year, a footnote of what not to do (hence the advent of shaking tables and such) – and while 2002 was great, it is also known for its over-extraction and over-excitement … many winemakers were so thrilled to see the heat of 2002 that they just felt firm pressing and new oak were de rigueur for those grapes – and with that thinking came good wines, but their longevity suffered in the end, as the wines were still tough for too long and, hey, oak does not always make things better. As one veteran winemaker relayed to me: “in good years you need way less new oak and in the not so great vintages you need more”, well ’02 was a haven for new oak – and well the old adage proved itself true again.

Fast forward 13 and 14 years respectively and we have the same back-to-back scenario where one vintage is getting all the attention at the expense of the other … and sure ’16 deserves its accolades, writing off ’15 because it was not ’16 is a mistake many Ontario wine fans are likely to make … don’t let one of them be you.

One reason 2015 isn’t getting the love it deserves is because it was a “short crop” due to the dual winters of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 which knocked the heck out of production (down ~30% after the first winter and then back another ~30% the following) … therefore 2015 was not as plentiful as 2016; but 2015 had the advantage of Mother Nature’s survival of the fittest principle – only the strong survived and with that kind of natural thinning and pruning the fruit was just as good, and in some cases, even better than 2016.

So yes, stock up on those 2016 wines, but don’t let the great wines of 2015 pass you by either – I have it from some winemakers in the know that the longevity may be even better than what ’16 is offering and is showing more elegance and finesse. Time will certainly tell which wines will outlast the other,, but do you want to be one of those that has to find out through a friend’s wine cellar and not your own?

In my reviews this week (found below) you’ll find 2 awesome performers from 2015 you need to get, both in limited supply.


Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  New & Noteworthy Wines

Bachelder 2016 Gamay, Wismer-Foxcroft Vineyard - $22.00
We all know Thomas B can make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but who knew he could also make Gamay like and angel? This totally “crushable” Gamay has delicate cherry running start to finish, while the mid-palate layers in some spicy elements to keep the fruit honest … the question is no longer can he make Gamay the question now is can he do it again?  (****)

Domaine Queylus 2015 Merlot, La Grande Reserve - $49.95 (W)
Every red (other than Pinot Noir) that Queylus does has a bit of “other” within … this “Merlot” also has 13% Cabernet Franc within to add complexity. 16-18 months in oak and a mere 17 cases made, that’s tiny. This wine is a real beauty and very limited so it’ll be one you’ll want to snap up. Juicy core of black cherry, blackberry, and spiced-plum along with vanilla and mocha … Merlot may be unsexy and uncool but this is killer juice that will age well over the next 5-10 years … it’s layered, it’s lovely and yes it’s Merlot, so get some in your glass and drink it.  (**** ½)

Five Rows 2015 Syrah - $55.00 (W)
Vines were planted the in early 2000’s in the Lowrey Vineyard – and while Pinot Noir gets all the attention and accolades this Syrah should be a close second … but it’s tops in my book. Aromas are smoked meat and black pepper all the way – start to finish – and it’s that richness of spice that’s the real coup here. Aged 24 months in all French (25% new) – it’s a real surprise  wine from Lowrey and Five Rows, an eye-opener for what their site brings to the fruit … and if you’re one of those looking for fruit, give the wine 2-3 years to blossom … spicy-Syrah-lovers, drink now.  (**** ½)

Honsberger 2016 Chardonnay, Schuele Vineyard – Handshake Series - $35.00 (W)
The Handshake Series are wines made from non-estate fruit, what the Honsberger’s refer to as “friends of the family” where a deal is struck by just a smile and a handshake. This first time, one time only Chardonnay, from the Schuele Vineyard – is made from fruit long coveted by winemaker Kelly Mason. Three barrels only, only 75 cases made; 18 months aged (1 new / 2 older) and all wild fermented.  The easy review is “yum” and “wow” – but here are the deets: slightly buttery with melon, apple, and spice on the nose – palate shows  subtle tangerine, floral-melon, peach pit with a hint of mineral and citrus on the finish … and there’s real nice hang time on the finish too, so a little goes a long way.  (**** ½)

iCellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon - $60.00 (W)
What a stunningly good wine this is! Adnan Icel believes in Cabernet Sauvignon, so much so he planted 40% of his vineyard to the grape, and after tasting this wine I think he is on to something … 12 months in 100% new French oak and yet you’ll ask yourself “where’s the wood?” Aromas of chocolate, mocha, cherry and blackberry; and a palate that’s juicy with lots of dark fruit: blackberry and black cherry backed by vanilla and chocolate. It’s lush and plush across the tongue with just enough spice and tannins to keep everything humming along – and the acidity is there to balance everything else off nicely. It’s a super-gorgeous bottle of wine and worthy of my rarely given highest mark, because to not give it would just be spiteful.  (*****)

Kacaba 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - $44.95 (W)
Let’s start here: 16 months in a mix of French and American oak (15% new), all free run juice and a mere 450 cases made, so this is a limited edition offering … and it’s an absolute beauty. Starts with sweet dark fruit and mocha aromas layering in blackberry, blueberry and black cherry on the palate, then just when you think your palate couldn’t take anymore, in sweeps black plums, cinnamon, vanilla and subtle, but an ever present pepper and smoky finish. A wine that continues to deliver aromas and flavours well into the evening, sip after glorious sip.  (**** ½+)

The Rose spotlight is on the Honsberger 2017 Rosé, Cabernet Franc - click here to see the review.

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

Wine Meme of the Month ...

The Weekly Wine Video Series: A Recap of the Latest Videos

The Weekly Wine Videos
Every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

 Weekly Ontario Wine Videos

Video #281 - Lacey Estates 2016 Infinity Chardonnay (PEC)
Video #280 - Trius Showcase 2015 Red Shale Cabernet Franc (Niagara)
Video #279 - iCellars Estate 2016 Chardonnay (Niagara)
Video #278 - De Simone Vineyards 2016 Merlot (Niagara)


National & International Wines Series ... 

Mahi Wine 2015 Chardonnay (New Zealand)
Hamilton Russell 2009 Ashbourne (South Africa)
Calem 2000 Colheita Tawny (Porftugal)
Tom Gore 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Subscribe to the YouTube channel by clicking here

Ontario Wine Updates Re-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

 On the Road:  Two Culmina Tastings
On the Road:  Taste Oregon - A Journey of Discovery
On the Road:  A Quick Peak at Burgundy
From the Cellar:  3 Reds and Short Ribs

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


WEEKLY PODCAST:  Two Guys Talking Wine
Join me and my co-host Andre Proulx as we discuss all things wine, and sometimes we're not afraid to go off topic
We really like Clonakilla ... A lot (Episode 97)
Talkin' with Sara Triggs of Culmina (Episode 96)
Talkin' with Valdicava (Episode 95)
Michael went to Portugal (Episode 94)


Vintages Release (blog)
Saturday June 23, 2018 - See it Here
Saturday July 7, 2018 - See it Here

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

What can the Grape Guy do for you … Michael Pinkus (Grape Guy) provides a variety of wine related services that you might be interested in taking advantage of:  he gives lectures, leads seminars, conducts tastings, sets up tours; consults, selects and judges.  He also gives interviews, broadcasts, podcasts and writes.  Contact the Grape Guy if you require any of these services or have any questions.

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