Wine — Our Northern Neighbor 

Our Northern Neighbor

By Tim Protzman

Canada offers more than mounties and moose

 

I recently decided to take a look at Canadian wines. While Canada may never achieve the stature of Napa or Piedmont, the country’s vintners are crafting some interesting and delicious wines, using that same can-do attitude and level of care they showed the stranded passengers on those trans-Atlantic flights.

Most Canadian wine comes from the fertile Niagara Peninsula, between Lakes Erie and Ontario. Pinot noir, cabernet franc, Riesling and cabernet sauvignon do well there, despite the long, harsh winters. As it turns out, the cold climate is actually responsible for some of Canada’s most acclaimed wines. Ice wine is a highly concentrated, sweet dessert-style wine that’s produced from grapes that have fully ripened and are left on the vines until the first freeze of the winter. The grapes are then picked, crushed and fermented. The result is a nectary, fruit-laden wine that’s rich and delicious. Ice wine originated in Germany, when harvest and frost sometimes coincided in a similar climate.

France, Italy, California and Australia also produce quality dessert wines, but they rely on the botrytis fungus, known as the noble rot. Late-picked grapes, with high sugar content, are allowed to develop a mold that consumes the tannins and concentrates the juice. Sauternes, the best-known and most expensive dessert wines, are made this way.

While Canadian wine production dates back to 1813, the late-harvest Riesling ice wines have been on the wine lover’s radar screens for a scant 20 years. But those 20 years have been marked by gold medals and top honors at wine tastings worldwide.

Finding ice wine in the States is not that difficult, but some of this week’s other wines are harder to find. Rather than recommend a particular bottle and vintage I’m going to recommend the producers and leave it to you to do the legwork. Perhaps it’s worth a trip north to a Societe des Alcool du Quebec (SAQ), the entity responsible for the import and sale of alcoholic beverage in Quebec. The stores are well stocked, upscale, and full of bargains and interesting wines.

Inniskillin — Makes a superb ice wine along with a nice Riesling, a nice pinot noir and a decent cabernet sauvignon.

Chateau des Charmes — At first taste their cabernet sauvignon presented bitter chocolate tastes with the berry flavors of a merlot. They use a hybridized French grape called Marechal Foch as a 5 percent blending agent, giving the wine a strong, Burgundian style structure.

Cave Springs — Their sauvignon blanc is very nice with minerals and pineapple taste notes.

Henry of Pelham — I had the cabernet sauvignon and it was good. Owned by the Speck family, this winery aspires to be the Gallo of Canada.

Jackson-Triggs — This winery uses ultra-scientific production methods in their quest to produce premium cabernet franc and pinot noir.

Marynissen, Peller Estate and Stewn Estate — They focus their efforts on expensive ($40 for a half bottle) ice wines. Each sip presents peaches and cream, maple taste notes and juicy pear flavors. Their secret? A blending hybrid called vidal blanc.

Thirty Bench — Great ice wine, pinot noir and a decent pinot gris.

 

If you are not into Canada this week, here are a few other wines to consider:

 

California:

1999 River Run Malbec from the Mannstand Vineyard — This unique and hard-to-find little wine hails from Santa Clara County which stretches from Palo Alto to Gilroy (garlic capital of the world). Rich and burly, I would have sworn this one was a zinfandel. $18.99.

1998 Clos Du Bois Winemaker’s Reserve Alexander Valley Malbec — I’m cheating on this one because it’s only 86 percent malbec and 14 percent cabernet sauvignon. Expensive but well styled, this malbec will age well for 10 to 15 years. See you in 2009. $27.49

 

France:

2000 Chateau Macay, Côtes de Bourg — My reason for including this one is to show how the French use malbec. It’s a blending grape and it is fabulous. Ten percent malbec, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15 percent cabernet franc and 65 percent merlot makes this wine an exceptional value from a fantastic vintage year. $13.99! Drink now and through 2006.

 

Argentina:

Five of the six wines I’ve selected are reasonably priced, and more importantly widely available.

1999 Valentin Bianchi San Rafael — Spicy with a hint of licorice and oak tones and nice non-tannic finish. $14.49.

2000 Catena—From the Mendoza region is the flagship wine of the 100-year-old Nicolas Catena winery. Ninety percent malbec, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, this wine has great plummy fruit flavors and is light enough for summer. $17.99.

 

1998 Bodega Norton — Cherry fruit flavors await your palate and make this a perfect everyday red. $7.99.

1999 Trapiche Oak Cask—Oak aging seems to tame the malbec grape and trapiche is nicely formed with some structure and the ability to stand up to spaghetti sauce. Three years ago trapiche was my introduction to the exciting world of Argentinean wine. $9.99.

2001 Elsa San Rafael Malbec — With a merlot-esque softness and a touch of oak this wine presents like a good French Vin de Pay (country wine), nice with beef stew. Super price. $7.49.

2000 Luca—From Alto de Mendoza, this powerhouse is pricey at $34.99, but it’s a glimpse into the future of Argentinean wine. Big, bold and a cross between an Australian shiraz and a Californian cabernet.

E-mail your wine experiences to tprotzman@hotmail.com.

 

 

Find your bottle

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission can help you find your beverage with a click or two. Just go to www.nh.gov/liquor type the name of your wine into the product locater and click “go.” The site’s search engine will come up with a list of stores that carry the bottle you seek.

- Tim Protzman

 
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