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Harry's Blog

  • This Chateauneuf-du-Pape Pops

    Every famous wine appellation has a story behind it. This one basically boils down to a tug-of-war, political rather than theological, between Italy and France as to control of the Church. From 1378 to 1417, two clashing clergyman, John XXII and Clement V, claimed to be the true Pope. John XXII unknowingly gave his name to the most famous red wine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, literally, new castle of the pope, when he built himself a summer home near Avignon in southern France. Nowadays, only bottles sporting the papal coat-of-arms on the neck of the bottle can be used. The appellation’s best vineyards lie in the hills north of the ruins of the papal palace. The soil, or lack of it, is legendary. Some vineyards, the ones that tend to be shown in pictures, are covered in a layer of fist-sized stones. The vast majority of vineyards, however, are a combination of various soil types of clay and sand and surface rocks. Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be a vinous cocktail, blending up to thirteen allowed grape varieties. The signature blend of every producer will emphasize spice versus tannins versus aging ability, or whatever the producer thinks will make his or her wine stand out. Ferraton Pere & Fils is an iconic Rhone Valley producer. Their 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah blend spends 20 days fermenting and then another 12-15 months in oak barriques. Brilliant garnet in colour, on the nose we get complex aromas of sour cherry and plum. We encounter silky tannins, long in the mouth, with further notes of leather and spice. Respected rater Jeb Dunnick gave it 92-94 points. Dark meats such as lamb, venison or roast duck will pair perfectly.

    2020 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Le Parvis Ferraton P & F #638551, $59.95

  • Heredad De Baroja: A Post Halloween Treat

    After treating the tricksters, mom and dad deserve a treat too! To be sold as a Reserva classification, a Rioja wine from Spain must be aged in barrels for at least 3 years. Here we have an adult treat with 8 years of aging. No seniors’ stigma! It’s more like a baby boomer defying a numeric age designation by proving youthful spunk wrapped in dignified style.  One hundred percent Tempranillo grape, the ageing takes place in American oak which is favoured for its softening influence combined with mandatory hints of vanilla that show up on the nose. At one of the highest points in the Rioja Alavesa region, in the Village of Elvillar de Álava, the Meruelo family created Bodegas Heredad de Baroja in 1964. The winery itself was built with a single purpose in mind: turning top-quality Tempranillo grapes into classic expressions of elegant Rioja wine. Sourced from vineyards more than 600 meters above sea-level, on a base of clay and limestone soils, the grapes reach a perfect balance of ripeness and acidity due to dramatic temperature differences between night and day of 20 degrees Celsius, or more, during the grape ripening period. James Suckling awarded this wine 93 points. A feast for the senses, it is delicious and then peaks with a fruity, juicy exhibition of red berries, spice and vanilla. Mature and refined, it is drinking well now but will also keep on providing pleasure from the present through to 2026 and beyond. Pair with grilled chorizo sausage on a bed of saffron rice.

    2014 Heredad de Baroja Rioja Reserva #26506, $25.95

  • Baden Region: Good Wine

    Baden, actually pronounced Bah-den, is wonderfully good when it comes to anything relating to food and wine. Did you know that this picturesque German gem of a region, located along the Rhine River, bordering Switzerland and Alsace, has more starred Michelin restaurants than any other region of Germany? In fact, the French seem to know this since they flock to the area’s restaurants in droves, especially on weekends. And their wines are in the same style as Alsace - dry, fruit driven and food friendly. Of course, it helps that the local dialect, a derivative of German called Allemanisch, is the common lingo, uniting them. Only the Rhine River separates them physically. It is the Pinot varieties that are preferred, with Pinot Noir, locally called Spätburgunder, ranking number one. In fact, Germany is the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world, only behind France and the USA. This wine hails from the Königschaffhausen Winery, located in the town of the same name, on the slopes of the Kaiserstuhl, an ancient, extinct volcano. Steingrüble is the specific vineyard site. The winery has several times been named Germany’s “Pinot Noir Producer of the Year.” It’s dry, smooth and medium bodied with hints of cherries and red berry fruits in the bouquet. Pan-fried trout sprinkled with almond slivers to pair? You bet!

     

    2019 Königschaffhäuser Steingrüble Pinot Noir Trocken #460410, $18.95
  • If you knew Harry like we know Harry

    We all know some Harrys - Prince Harry, for sure! How about magician Harry Houdini, crooner Harry Connick Jr., U.S. President Harry Truman, singer Harry Stiles, Harry Pickering, founder of the world- famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, or our resident blogger Harry Drung? And let’s dare not forget Harry Potter. Looking for a name for their dry Rosé, New Zealand’s SOHO Winery chose the name Harry. According to the back label, their inspiration was “people with purpose and charm.” That would seem to fit a number of Harrys listed here, one way or the other. Also, “Harry is the quintessential wine of camaraderie,” says the back label, too. Pinot Noir-based, hailing from its own Marlborough vineyards, it’s a refreshing fusion of juicy berries, rosewater and royal sherbet leading to a delicious dry lingering finish. Wine Orbit rated it 93+ points. The production is certified sustainable. Also, it’s guaranteed 100% Vegan friendly. Sip with a poached salmon salad while reflecting about one of the Harrys mentioned here.

    2021 SOHO WHITE COLLECTION HARRY ROSÉ #19545, $19.95.

  • Benchmark for Baco Noir

    Baco Noir is a hybrid red variety with origins in France. An early ripening variety, it has found a fertile home and the perfect micro-climate and growing conditions in the clay-based soils of Niagara’s Short Hills Bench. Henry of Pelham winery is truly a benchmark producer for this varietal having realized its potential many years ago and soldiered on to the present to establish and perfect it as a signature grape variety in Ontario. While other growers were taking advantage of government funded grape vine pull-out programs, owners, the Speck brothers, took a long term view and were committed to increasing plantings of “Baco”, as those in the know simply call it. Deep red and purple robed in colour, on the nose we get complex notes of sweet smoke, tobacco, dark berries and cocoa. Analytically it is dry, yet the medium body is balanced with a rich, robust lingering mouth feel. Consumers looking for something different, not just more of “same old, same old,” will find a treasure trove of enjoyment in a glass. Delicious and approachable on its own, it’s a great food wine too. Gourmet burgers, rabbit stew, eggplant lasagna are great pairings. Cheese wise, go local. Jordan Station based Upper Canada Cheese Company’s Maple Smoked Comfort Cream cheese makes a great companion with our Baco Noir and its smoky nuances.

    Henry of Pelham Baco Noir VQA #270926, $15.95.

     

  • Bird Pairing Preferences

    Bird is usually the word for this Thanksgiving weekend with turkey, in its multitude of potential preparations, the preferred dish enjoyed around the dinner tables of the nation. As we give thanks, and turkey is the table centrepiece of celebrations, wine is usually a key component at the family gathering. Riesling with its versatility is so easy to pair with most medium to lighter fare. Our newly released Free Bird Riesling label pays homage to the wife of Henry of Pelham, Catherine (Cat) Smith, the Speck Brothers pioneering ancestors. The bouquet gives us citrus notes with hints of ripening pineapple. There is a gentle lingering softness on the palate with nuances of nectarine and tangerine and a moderate 11% alc./vol. If you would like to take a break from time-honoured holiday traditions, feel free as a bird, for example, to follow the spice route with Asian-fusion dishes – spicy shrimp or scallops, or sesame chicken salad with ginger-lime dressing. Happy Thanksgiving!           

    2021 Free Bird Riesling VQA # 28672, $15.95

  • 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