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Harry's Blog

  • An OKTOBER Ex-BIER-ience

    With Oktoberfests being celebrated around the world, mimicking the original in Munich, Germany, also going full force as you read this, we’ve got the ORIGINAL Oktoberfestbier available here in Ontario for a limited time. Did you know that in Munich, the only breweries that are allowed to sell their special seasonal brews for Oktoberfest must be located within the city limits? Not like breweries around the world that have hijacked the term Oktoberfest for whatever style of beer they wish to produce and market. Our Oktoberfestbier is brewed by the famous Hofbrauhaus Munich, the mothership of all beer halls. Bright golden in colour with rich aromas of bread, it is medium-to-full bodied with a long citrus and dried hay accented finish. A classic Märzen style, clocking in at a slightly higher 6.3% alc./vol., the independent Beverage Testing Institute gave it 93 points with an “Exceptional” rating. Pick up some sausages, buns and sauerkraut from your local grocery store, chain or independent, and celebrate your own home-based Oktoberfest.

    Don’t forget to get over to your local LCBO and pick up bottles of HOFBRAU OKTOBERFESTBIER 500 MLS 84889, $4.05 to round out the experience

  • Look to Lisboa for Value

    Lisbon, called Lisboa in Portuguese, is one of the classic capital cities of Europe. It also lends its name to the wine growing region north of the city. The area is characterized by dramatic vineyard covered hillsides that vary in altitude from 70 to 450 meters above sea level. The San Sebastiao estate winery is located in the quaint town of Arruda in what locals call the “Enchanted Valley.” The soils are mainly clay-limestone based with a micro climate that is Mediterranean with light Atlantic breezes moderating the otherwise hot summer temperatures. A red blend of Syrah and local Tinta Roriz grapes, fermentation takes place only in stainless steel tanks. It is very fresh with the essence of grape and notes of plum and black fruits coming through loud and clear, not masked by any wood notes that come from barrel aging. At $12.95, the value is exceptional. In addition, it received the Gold Medal and Berliner Wine Competition Trophy. Serve with pasta dishes, light to medium strength cheeses, or your favourite meat dish.

     

    2019 San Sebastiao Lisboa Tinta Roriz Syrah #632869, $12.95.
  • Short Hills Pinot Noir - Nothing Short of Impressive

    Considered a cool climate wine growing region, sub-appellations in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula have been identified for their distinguishing characteristics of soils, typography and micro-climate. One of these is the premium Short Hills Bench on which all of Henry of Pelham’s estate vineyards are located. Situated on the Niagara Escarpment, it is basically a plateau made up of very gently rolling hills. The soils are silt, loam and clay based that force the vine’s roots to drive deep to search for nutrients and water, a real benefit especially during dry growing seasons. Breezes from Lake Ontario create good air flow. Combined with ample sunshine and heat, the growing season is long and protracted allowing the grapes to grow and ripen at a leisurely pace. This allows the grape’s natural sugar levels and acidity to become more naturally aligned. Good water drainage is provided by the valley of 12 Mile Creek and smaller streams. Pinot Noir, known as the heartbreak grape due to its finicky nature, has found its home here. Hand picked with low yields, the berries are moved by gravity while the winemaking emphasizes gentle handling using only free run juice. Red berries and spices dominate the bouquet. The silky mouth feel is intertwined with flavours of cherry and hints of oak and tobacco with a long finish. Forest floor nuances make mushroom risotto one of our favourite dishes with which to pair this Pinot Noir. Do not hesitate to add some protein in the form of grilled salmon or roast duck to round out your meal.          

    2019 Henry of Pelham Short Hills Pinot Noir #268391, $27.95

  • Reach for this Riesling - It's an Original

    The first recorded planting of the Riesling grape took place in the village of Hochheim, Germany, on March 13, 1435. Located on a gentle sloping hillside facing the Main River, just before it flows into the mighty Rhine, Riesling has been planted here continuously ever since. The Domdechant Werner Estate, located in Hochheim, has been in family ownership since 1780 and Riesling is the name of the game on this property. A blend of different vineyard sites, this estate bottled Riesling is classified as Trocken, meaning dry, in German. At the London, England International Wine Challenge, held in 2017, this producer was honoured as “White Winemaker of the Year.” Doesn’t get much better than this! While dry in taste, we are greeted with an elegant full fruit balanced by a refreshing acidity. So very versatile, it will match perfectly with seafood, fish, light meats and cheeses. Then again, it’s the quintessential quaffer on its own. Swirl, sniff, sip. Repeat. Don’t be afraid to lay down a few bottles as it develops more complexity over the next 2-3 years. Wine Enthusiast Magazine gave it a 91 point rating.   

    2019 Domdechant Werner Estate Riesling Trocken #25710, $19.95.

  • It's a Plan for the Long Weekend

    There are only 18 villages whose actual names are allowed to be identified with the appellation Côtes du Rhône Villages. These are top examples that demonstrate the classic characteristics of France’s southern Rhône region. Plan de Dieu is one of these villages. Literally translated, it means “field of God.” Must be something heavenly going on here. Legend has it that in the Middle Ages it was said that anyone who ventured into these vast fields of scrub land had better put their trust in God. Why? Because the area was populated with bandits. Now it is cultivated prime vineyard land planted with premium grape varieties. The bulk of the Plan de Dieu vineyards are planted on an alluvial terraces carpeted with large pebbles, rocks and limestone gravel. This blend is mainly based on the Grenache grape, with smaller amounts of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. Barrel matured, the colour is deep garnet with violet tinges. The bouquet is full of black fruits of blackberry and black currant. The taste is fresh, yet savoury and well balanced. Hailing from the Ferraton estate, it is now owned by the well-known and respected Rhône based Michel Chapoutier family. With the last long weekend of summer upon us and back-to-school beckoning, the days are getting shorter and evening temperatures cooler. This is characterful red wine perfect for a Labour Day BBQ with family and friends. Chicken thighs, butterflied pork chops or a medium-rare filet of beef, enjoy the pairing!

    2021 Ferraton Père & Fils Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages #742229, $19.95

  • Essencia Essentials

    One of the wine world’s most famous and iconic wines is Essencia from Hungary’s Tokaji region. The ultimate dessert wine, it is produced in minute quantities. It has an almost unlimited longevity. In fact, giving this bottling 97 points and calling it “an otherworldly feat of nature,” Robert Parker’s Neal Martin recommended drinking it through to the year 2100.  Essencia is the fermented liquid gold that very slowly oozes from bins of individually hand-picked indigenous grapes raisined by the friendly fungus, botrytis. A skilled picker would be lucky to harvest 10 kgs of these grapes in a day. The juice slowly accumulates in the bottom of the vat by the gentle pressure of the grapes’ own weight and pours like rich honey. It is essentially the concentrated essence of the ripest grapes. The yeasts have a near hopeless task of trying to transform the extremely high sugar levels into alcohol. After fermenting seven years in glass demijohns, only 4% alc./vol. was achieved while clocking in at a mind-blowing 469 gm/l residual sugar. The color is deep gold with a hint of amber. Fresh, ripe peaches on the nose pave the way for complex honeyed, spicy, ginger notes and a background presence of botrytis. Full but graceful to taste, it is intensely concentrated, rich and sweet, and balanced by a taunt acidity. 2008 Essencia is offered as a single bottle (375 ml) in a red lacquer case with crystal sipping spoon. The spoon was designed exclusively for Royal Tokaji, enabling 25 1-tablespoon pours per bottle. Only 12 bottles were allocated for the Ontario market out of a total production of 2,906 bottles. From a rare and extraordinary vintage, this is the ultimate collector’s wine without equal.

    2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia Tokaji 375 ml Gift Box # 25443, $825

  • Catch a Cab from Down Under

    While Cabernet Sauvignon is the noble, signature red wine grape of Bordeaux, it has made an indelible and indispensable mark on the rest of of the wine world, especially in the New World. The extraordinary aspect of Cabernet Sauvignon is its ability to produce a wine that is so recognizable. The classic bouquet of black currants with hint of mint, the structure in its taste and the ability to reflect the individuality of the vintage make it a favourite of the world’s winemakers. No wonder its the world’s most widely planted wine grape. Heading down under to Australia, for the Yalumba winery, based in the premium Barossa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon is an extremely important member of its offering of red wines. It’s part of their iconic Y Series of varietals. The label shows a tractor, the essential “work horse” of the vineyard, emphasizing the importance the winery puts on its Cabernet Sauvignons. Deep garnet in colour, it is full bodied with dark fruits and herbal notes and subtle oak nuances dominating the bouquet. The taste is smooth and structured with soft tannins accenting the delivery. Bold yet approachable, it is ready to drink upon purchase. It is vegan friendly and can be paired nicely with most mushroom-based dishes. But our favourite is lamb kebabs off the barbie. You betcha mate!  

     

    2019 Yalumba Y Series Cabernet Sauvignon # 17759, $14.95.

  • Let's Get into the Dirty Laundry

    Looking to re-brand the winery name from the nice, but not very memorable or easy-to-pronounce, Scherzinger Family Vineyards, the new owners conducted research, including local history and folklore. They settled on the name Dirty Laundry. A hush hush part of local history revealed that the town of Summerland, British Columbia, had been home to a laundry that sometimes fronted as a brothel during the pioneer and railroad building era at the end of the nineteenth century. It was said the customers had the cleanest shirts and biggest smiles. Thus was born the playful, double entendre Dirty Laundry brand name. The labels show an old-fashioned laundry iron as the centerpiece tastefully surrounded by feminine lines. Sales went from 1,000 cases per year under the old brand name to the current 35,000 cases. But it’s not just a matter of catchy, clever packaging, branding, and marketing. The bevvy of medal wins from diverse competitions is additional proof of the brand’s success, a combination of elements brought together by the new owners. The 2018 Unoaked Chardonnay hails from two of their prime vineyard sites located in Summerland on western shores of Lake Okanagan. Fermented and aged only in stainless steel, the bouquet is crisp with orchard fruit aromas of apple and pear piqued by subtle nuances of lemon. Flavours of green apple and pear with a hint of lime finish with a bright, cleansing acidity. Enjoy with a pasta and a light cream sauce dish topped with crab or shrimp in order to include some protein in this delicious delicacy. If you have a hankering for cheese, end the meal with a soft goat cheese with a quince fruit preserve on the side. 

    2018 Dirty Laundry Unoaked Chardonnay #22686, 19.95

  • Beautiful Buena Vista

    Founded in 1857 by Count Agoston Haraszthy, who immigrated from Hungary, Buena Vista is one of California’s oldest wine properties. Located in the historic town of Sonoma, France’s renowned Boisset family from Burgundy bought the property and brought it back to life starting 2011 after a long Snow White sleep of inactivity. The original stone winery building, a  designated California Historic Landmark, was refurbished as a beautiful consumer tasting facility. A modern, state-of-the-art winemaking operation was added to take advantage of their abundant and diverse vineyard holdings in Sonoma County and further north along the California coast. Pinot Noir is the signature red grape of Burgundy and a staple of cooler climate regions of the New world. So it was only natural that Buena Vista, meaning “beautiful view” in Spanish, included it in its portfolio. Complex smoky, earthy, forest floor aromas, lead us to a silky mouth feel of red fruits and plum flavours. The finish lingers on long after swallowing. Enjoy with sliced smoked salmon and capers on whole grain artisanal bread spread with herbed Boursin cream cheese. While drinking nicely now, laying it down for a few years will reward drinkers for their patience. The Wine Enthusiast scored it with 91 points.          

    2018 Buena Vista North Coast Pinot Noir #24112, $24.95 

  • Late is Great

    Grapes left on the vine to ripen longer are called Late Harvest, obviously. They will have greater richness, complexity, more intense flavours and more pronounced colour. The German term for these wines is Spaetlese, pronounced Sh-payt-lay-zuh. It’s a specialty of Germany with a long history. The Dr. Max. Ferd. Richter Estate on the Mosel River is one of Germany’s classic, icons producing top drops from Riesling grapes grown on steep, southern-facing slate slopes. Hailing from their Elisenberger vineyard site, it was given to the family as gratitude for preventing their village from being sacked by the troops of Napolean 1 in Oct.,1813. The nose is attractive and all about fresh limes and crisp fruit aromas. A laser sharp acidity balances the sweet notes with a flavour that’s tightly structured and persistent. It may be laid down for several years to gain more complexity and nuances – pure hedonism. For right now enjoy it chilled – swirl, smell, sip, savour, and repeat. It’s a delicious pairing with soft cheeses such as brie or camembert. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave it 94 points commenting that it could be laid down for up to twenty years – a real “sleeping beauty.”  

    2019 Elisenberger Riesling Spaetlese  #25712, $29.95

  • Y? Why Not?

    The Viognier grape is responsible for some of France’s Rhône Valley premium and most expensive white wines, i.e. Chateau Grillet in Condrieu. Yalumba Winery, based in the Barossa Valley, had taken the initiative to plant this varietal in Australia starting over forty years ago. Yalumba is considered to be a leader in the growing of this varietal in the New World and specifically in the neighboring Eden Valley with its higher, cooler elevations. The vineyards are farmed and certified sustainable. Fermentation takes place spontaneously with wild yeasts. No commercial strains are used. Vegan friendly, it is bottled under their Y Series, a collection of iconic classic varietals produced in limited quantities. We are fortunate to have the Y Viognier available on LCBO shelves on a continuous basis. With a straw colour and medium bodied texture, we encounter notes of melon, honeysuckle and white flowers in the bouquet. Aging on the lees gives us a complex tasting palate with a lingering, silky finish. While delicious to be enjoyed as an aperitif, we can think of nothing better on these hot, sultry days or evenings, than to pair it with a cold, rich seafood salad. Don’t skimp on the lobster or crabmeat!

    2021 Yalumba Y Series Viognier #470062, $14.95.

  • Get to Know Pinot Rosé

    Did you know that Germany is the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir? While dry reds are the majority of the production, the Baden region, close to the French and Swiss borders, turns out some dandy dry rosés from this enchanting enclave. Hailing from the picturesque village of Koenigschaffhausen, the Pinot Noir grape thrives on the slopes of an extinct volcano called the Kaiserstuhl (Emperor’s Throne). The specific vineyard site where this rosé hails from is called Vulkanfelsen, translated volcanic rock. But don’t let a teutonic tongue twiste deter your enjoyment. During the production process the wine is left on the grape skins long enough to aquire the desired shade of pink the winemaker is looking for. With a bouquet of red berries and a pleasant, fruit driven dry taste, it sure is a seductive sipper. Swirl, sniff, sip. Snap your fingers and say, eins, zwei, dry, and pair this beauty with grilled salmon.     

    2021 Pinot Noir Rose Dry ”Koenigschaffhausen Vulkanfelsen” #168237, $15.95.