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Views from the Ontario Vines

with Fred Couch



Cuvée en Route - 2014

By F.G. Couch ©

Cuvée is a celebration of Ontario's wine and culinary scene. The weekend event consists of a Gr and Tasting featuring the winemakers' favourite wines and samplings of signature dishes created at live cooking stations. Cuvée was once considered the “Oscars” of the Ontario wine industry. Winemakers would judge the wines of their peers and the awards would be presented at the Gala evening. However, this concept changed last year and the competition part of the event was dropped. One complaint that I heard from a number of wineries is that each winery could only submit one wine for tasting at the Gala evening. Some wineries welcomed the change but many still liked the judging and awards format.



Next year, the event will be organized by CCOVI (Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute) at Brock University. At this point in time it is not certain whether Brock University will go back to the old format or retain the way this year's Gala was structured.

For those of us who can't afford the $200 it costs to attend the Grand Tasting, there is “Cuvée en Route”. This is a passport event and for $30 you can visit 32 wineries over three days. The wineries were sampling the wines they poured at the Gala as well as specially selected flights

Our first stop was at Kacaba Vineyards and Winery. The theme here was “vertical”. We were in for a pleasant surprise. The passport listed three wines that we could try but we were offered a vertical tasting of six Syrah samples: 2009 Single Vineyard, 2010 Single Vineyard, 2010 Reserve, 2011 Terrace Vineyard, 2011 Proprietor's Select and a barrel sample of the 2012 Reserve. One of our favourites and a wine that was specially priced for Cuvée weekend was the 2011 Terrace Vineyard.

Although we visited only about half of the wineries on the passport, we found that one downside of this event was the lack of food. Even if it was only a piece of bread or a cracker, it would have been welcomed because each winery served at least three samples of wine. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we went to Reif Estate Winery. They treated passport holders to a cheese and wine tasting. Three Ontario cheeses were perfectly matched with Reif wines. The theme here was “horizontal”. The 2012 Riesling was paired with a Five Brothers (Woodstock) semi-soft Swiss/Gouda style cheese. The 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve was matched with Mountain Oak (Hamburg) gold aged Gouda. Finally, a 2012 Vidal Icewine went perfect with Glengarry (Lancaster) Celtic Blue. This is a semi-soft whole cow's milk cheese with delicate blue veining. For those who think Icewine just goes with sweet desserts, give blue cheese a try with it. Our visit to Reif was one of the highlights of the weekend.

Delightful wine and cheese tasting at Reif Estate Winery

One other winery that provided food was Five Rows Craft Wine of Lowrey Vineyards. This is a low production winery producing exceptional wines. Their theme was “limited edition”. Only 10 cases remained of these wines at the time of printing the brochure for Cuvée en Route. I'm sure that after the event, only bottles will remain. Wines sampled were the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Pinot Noir and 2010 Shiraz. We liked the Pinot Noir so much that even at $50 a bottle I had to buy one for my cellar. I noticed on the label that I got bottle number 1,344 of 2,010. This will be kept for a special occasion.

Calamus Estate Winery also chose the “horizontal” theme with a trio of stellar 2012 Rieslings ranging from crisp and dry to fruity and off dry. The three wines served were the Reserve Riesling, the Vinemount Ridge Riesling and Robert's Riesling. We preferred the Vinemount Ridge with just the right balance of sweetness and acidity. We also had an opportunity to try the newly-released 2013 Pinot Gris which is now available at the LCBO.

We always get a warm welcome from Jerry Kopanski at Cornerstone Estate Winery. The theme was “winemaker's selection”. However, Jerry was happy to serve us any of the wines available. We decided to stick with the selected wines which included the 2010 Cabernet-Merlot (served at the Gala), the 2012 Pinot Gris (from kiln-dried grapes) and the 2011 Gewürztraminer. We couldn't leave Cornerstone without trying and buying the wonderful 2012 Riesling.

Malivoire Wine Company, in my opinion, makes one of the best Gamay wines in Niagara. So, it was not surprising that their theme of “Limited Edition” showcased three of the finest: the 2012 Small Lot Gamay, the 2011 Courtney Gamay and a pre-release of the 2012 Courtney Gamay. If the barrel sample of the 2012 Courtney is any indication, this is going to a dynamite wine and I can't wait to try it when it's finally aged and bottled.

Vieni Wine and Spirits is one of the newest wineries in Niagara. It's located in Beamsville on top of the escarpment. They chose the theme “Unique Varieties” and poured the 2011 Al Passo Aglianico, a 2012 sparkling Riesling and the 2012 Bollicine Extra Dry Sparkling. Aglianico is a black grape grown mainly in Italy. The vine originated in Greece and was brought to the south of Italy by Greek settlers. Vieni brought the ancient Aglianico grape from the volcanic slopes of Italy to Niagara and is probably the only winery growing this variety in Ontario. Bollicine is an extra dry sparkling mad with 50% Chardonnay and 50% Riesling. Vieni uses the Charmat method to produce their sparkling wines

Although only two wineries served food as part of the passport event, Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs had a tasting going on at the same time. For $10 (complimentary for their wine club members), you could have an Irish stew paired with the 2012 Inniskillin Meritage. At their sister winery, Jackson-Triggs, for $7.50 they were serving delicious game time nachos with either a white or red Meritage.

As part of the passport event, Inniskillin presented their 2012 sparkling Cabernet Franc Icewine to compare with the 2012 Cabernet Franc Icewine. Both were delicious and one of our favourite Icewine varieties.

The theme at Jackson-Triggs was “Vertical – then and now”. We could sample the 2006 and 2011 Delaine Vineyard Syrah. It was hard to pick a favourite since they both were good. We can't wait to try the 2012 when it's released.

Although we didn't get to all 32 wineries listed on the passport, the ones we visited were showing the best of the best. The Cuvée en Route event is a great way to visit different wineries at a reasonable price. I hope when Brock University takes over, they will continue with this part of the Cuvée weekend.

Photos by © F.G. Couch

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