Kalala Estate Winery

In an quiet corner of the Okanagan Valley above the town of Westbank is a quaint winery called Kalala Estate Winery.   The small winery was founded by Karnail Singh Sidhu.  Karnail is a hard working, intelligent man (and a sly joker too), who, after ten years of managing vineyards in the Okanagan began his own endeavor.  After just a short time in business the winery has celebrated many awards, including Chardonnay du Monde for the a double barrel aged chardonnay icewine.  Most recently the the company celebrated it’s third anniversary in June 2011.

The entrance to Kalala Estate Winery.

“Kalala” means place of miracles.  It is a lengend from Karnail’s home in India.  The story says that a shepherd was walking through a meadow when he came across a lamb and a wolf living together in harmony.  The shepherd declared the meadow as a place of miracles and as a result, the neighbouring village moved to this special place.  Karnail has applied this essence of this legend as the vision for Kalala Estate Winery “in pursuit of harmony”.

Following organic practices in the vineyard and winemaking, the winery produces a range of styles that suit all budgets.  Here are my notes on five of the wines:

2009 Kalala Pinot Gris
Medium lemon colour with viscous tears.  On the nose there is a fresh burst of stone fruits, white peaches, honey, pears, yellow apples and strawberries.  Off dry on the palate, with medium acidity.  High alcohol.  Round and full bodied.  Great intensity of fresh fruit flavours.  Extended length.  A great wine with dim sum.

2009 Kalala Riesling
Clear, medium lemon colour.  Youthful aromas of lime, white flowers, pears, wax, peaches, wild honey and kiwi fruit.  The palate is appropriately off dry balancing the intense mouth feel of high acidity, alcohol and body.  The flavours are juicy, apricots, blossoms, pears, spice and wax.  A lingering finish.

2009 Kalala Gewürztraminer
Medium gold colour with hints of copper.  Slow, thick tears. Explosion  of expressive aromas.  Perfume, orange and lemon rind, passion fruit and babies breath.  Slightly off dry.  Generous alcohol.  Medium acidity.  Thick viscosity.  Lingering flavours of spice and tropical fruits.  Because this wine is youthful and sealed under screw cap it is a little tight at first. I highly recommend decanting it.  Decanting turns up the volume on the flavours.  When I tasted this wine a day later it blew me away.

2008 Kalala Pinot Noir
Light ruby colour with garnet highlights.  On the nose youthful aromas of cherry, sun dried strawberries, black tea, raspberry jam and orange zest.  The palate is dry with  medium plus acidity.  The tannins are low, but gritty.  Medium bodied with great flavour intensity.  Exhibiting red currants, tea leaves, sour cherry, toast and baking spices.  A very long length.  A serious wine that can cellar up to five years.

2009 Kalala Cuvee Noir 
Medium ruby colour with thick slow tears.  Expressive aromas of plum, blueberry pie filling, tar, charcoal and bay leaf.  Slightly sweet and easy to drink (no strong tannin or acid).  More fruit forward flavours of plum, blueberry and sour raspberry.  A quick finish.  Try serving this wine lightly chilled on a hot summers day.

For more information on Kalala Estate Winery visit the website.

Posted in Canadian Wine, Okanagan Valley | 1 Comment

The Wines of Jura

The first ever Toronto Wines of Jura tasting was hosted April 12th by Sommelier Evan Saviolidis in association with Good Food Revolution at the Spoke Club.  It was an amazing opportunity to taste some rare and unusual wines.  Jura is a small wine region in the north east of France between Burgundy and Switzerland.  There are just 2000 ha planted with vines.

The afternoon began with a seminar lead by Evan on the wine styles and grape varieties of Jura as well as some comments on the history and traditions of the area.  A flight of five wines were provided to taste.   The flight began with the rose and red wines of the area made from the Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir grape varieties.  Generally the reds were rustic, exhibiting aromas of red berries and slight herbal notes.  On the palate they were extremely acidic and tannic.  Better off served with food.  The two final wines were white made from Chardonnay and Savagnin.  Even though Chardonnay is the most planted white grape at 43%, it is Savagnin that the wine region is known for.  Savagnin produces famous white wine called Vin Jaune.  Vin Jaune is distinctive because it is vinified in an unusual way giving the wine pungent, apparent aromas.   To make Vin Jaune, late harvest grapes are fermented to dry.  The wine is left to mature in 228L barrels for six years.  Over that time the barrel is not topped off, therefor the wine becomes exposed to oxygen as the wine evaporates and flor (a film yeast) forms a veil over the wine.  It is the oxygen and flor that give the wine it’s heady apparent aromas of brine and nuts.  After six years of maturation the wine is bottled in a special bottle called a “Clavelin”.  The stout bottle holds 62cl.  The smaller volume bottles are used because there is less wine in the barrel at the end of the process.  Vin Jaune can cellar a long time, up to 100 years.  It is recommended not to drink the wine before ten years of bottle ageing.

The glass head of the barrel allows a view of the flor development on a cask of Vin Jaune.

After the brief introduction seminar the attendees were asked to relocate to the roof top patio, while the room was being reset for the trade tasting.  The weather on April 13th was one of the first magnificent spring days.  It was an absolute pleasure to sit out side in the sunshine sipping Crémant du Jura for an hour or so.  Crémant du Jura makes up 20% of the wine production and can be made in a white or rose style.  The wines were crisp and dry.

Returning to the trade tasting, the small room was filled with sommeliers and writers curious to try these rare wines.  The vignerons from the respective Domaines had traveled from Jura to pour their wines at the tasting.  The room was a bit too crowded to take proper notes or taste everything.  I chose to taste just the white wines.  Here are some of my favourites:

2009 Naturé, Domaine Jacques Tissot, Arbois 
This wine is made from Savagnin.  But unlike the oxidized styles, this wine was made in stainless steel tanks and protected from oxygenation. The wine tasted very pure with a definite mineral note.  Probably the most stand out wine I tasted.

NV Crémant du Jura, Domaine André et Mireille Tissot
This wine blew me away.  As soon as I put the glass to my nose the intensity and purity of the wine really came through.  I soon learnt after that Domaine André et Mireille Tissot is a biodynamic property.  That explained the amazing volume the wine had that can only be found in biodynamic wines.  The crémant is fermented with a selection of yeast from Champagne, giving the wine elegance and those seductive brioche aromas.  Stéphane Tissot was pouring his wines.  He also makes a crémant indigéne made with indigenous yeasts.  This wine had an earthier more rustic profile.

Domaine Labet
This domaine had an interesting selection of Chardonnays, each distinctive with notes of minerals, floral notes and butterscotch.

2004 Vin de Paille, Domaine de Savagny, Côtes du Jura
This is a dessert wine.  The grapes are harvested and the clusters are left to dry on a bed of paille (straw) to concentrate the sugars.  This wine was amber in colour with very concentrated aromas of ice tea and peaches.   Medium sweetness on the palate.  It would be a great accompaniment to foie gras.

It is impossible to find any of these wines in the LCBO.  They may become available on restaurant wine lists soon.  Case orders can be made through selective wine agencies.

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Karlo Estates

I’ve recently been discovering Prince Edward County.  There is so much to explore; restaurants, galleries, fromageries, spectacular views of Lake Ontario and of course the wineries!  This blog is about one winery in particular, Karlo Estates.  I have visited the winery twice now, and I just can’t get enough so I’m going back on Friday!  Karlo Estates has captured the charm of The County in the ambiance of the winery and the friendliness of the owners, Richard and Sherry. The wines are tasty too!

Karlo Estates is located just outside the village of Wellington.  The winery is situated in a rustic, big red barn.  In the summer the large doors of the barn are open for visitors to enjoy the fresh County air and while tasting the wines.  The tasting bar is a long slab of wood propped on barrels.   The bar is adorned with antique water pitchers and gorgeous cheese boards filled with large peices of gourmet cheeses.  (The cheese is provided to compliment the tasting experience of the cool climate wines.)  Sunlight beams through the cracks of the barn walls, and birds can be heard chirping in the rafters.  It’s a very peaceful environment for wine tasting.

Karlo Estates

The dry stone bridge that adorns the wine labels.

Top reasons to visit Karlo Estates:
1.  The wines are crafted in small batches.  They are not available in the LCBO.
2.  Most of the wines are made naturally, with wild fermentations and no filtration.  This allows for lots of regional and varietal character.  Be aware of possible tartrate settlement in bottles.
3.  Stay and enjoy a glass of wine on the new back patio extension.  A light lunch menu will be offered in the summer.
4.  Check out the dry stone bridge Richard designed and constructed.
5.  My favourite experience at Karlo Estates is Richard and Sherry’s warm hospitality.  Get chatting with Richard and be sure to hear his roaring jolly laugh.  It’s contagious!

Tasting through the wines with Richard on the back patio.

Here are my notes on some of my favourite wines:

2009 Riesling
Clear, medium lemon colour. Youthful aromas of wet stone, chalk, lilacs and loads of stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and apricots.  There’s almost a hint of strawberry.  On the palate the wine is off dry which pleasantly balances the searing high acidity.  Moderate alcohol.  On the palate flavours of peach, lime and a hint of grain.  A lovely wine to sip as an aperitif.

2009 Chardonnay
Light gold colour with green highlights.  Medium intensity of complex aromas of almond milk, mineral, babies breath and white roses, fresh walnuts, green pears and a hint of caramel.  Dry, with medium acidity and moderate alcohol. Medium body with a creamy texture.  A slight bitter note on the finish.  More flavour of almond milk and savoury spices.  Another great County Chard.  Serve with trout almondine or local County cheeses.

2008 Quintus
Quintus is a traditional five grape variety Bordeaux blend.  Clear ruby colour.  Medium expression of sour and black cherries, red currants, savoury herbs such as thyme and bay leaf, a hint of violets.  Dry.  Medium acidity.  Soft, fine tannins.  Flavours of red fruits and herbs.  A medium bodied food wine.  Enjoy now with venison loin or herb crusted lamb chops.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
I love the intensity of this wine!  Dense ruby colour.  Concentrated aromas of black cherry, black berry, cassis and currant leaf.  A touch of forest floor, chocolate and mint.   On the palate it is dry, medium acidity, medium body with soft fine tannins.  Flavours of black fruits, black tea, raspberry and coffee.  Lingering finish.  Serve with grilled red meat like bison or hard cheeses.

For more information on Karlo Estates visit the website.

Posted in Canadian Wine, Prince Edward County | Leave a comment

Good Gewürztraminer

It irritates me when new world wine regions are compared to ACs in France (or anywhere else).  For example “such-and-such a place is on the same degree of latitude as the great wine region of Bordeaux” or “such-and-such a place a cool continental climate just like Burgundy”.  So what.  That is one factor of many that determines the character of a wine region and the wines produced there.  It’s just name dropping some of the great wine regions of the world to vaguely compare them to somewhere else.

After that little rant, I can’t help but notice similarities between two regions: Alsace and the Okanagan Valley, BC.  Both are long vertical grape growing regions, both experience above average hours of sunlight, both have varied soil types (volcanic comes to mind), both are alpine, mountainousness, cool, continental climates in the northern hemisphere, both grow aromatic white grape varieties of which I think Gewürztraminer is top notch in both locations.

Map of the Okanagan Valley on the left. Map of Alsace on the right.

This observation prompted me to organize a little tasting for myself.  I gathered three Okanagan Gewürztraminers and one Alsatian.  Here are my notes:

2009 Kalala Gewürztraminer, Okanagan Valley
Medium gold colour with hints of copper or oeil de pedris.  Slow, thick tears. Explosion  of expressive aromas.  Perfume, orange and lemon rind, passion fruit and babies breath.  Slightly off dry.  Generous alcohol.  Medium acidity.  Thick viscosity.  Lingering flavours of spice and tropical fruits.  Because this wine is youthful and sealed under screw cap it is a little tight at first. I highly recommend decanting it.  Decanting turns up the volume on the flavours.  When I tasted this wine a day later it blew me away.

2009 Lake Breeze Gewürztraminer, Okanagan Valley
Pale gold colour.  Thick tears.  Medium intensity of aromas lime zest, white lilies particularly lily of the valley, spice and a hint of toast.  Off dry.  Medium acidity. Flavours of soft fruits like pears and melons nicely dusted with baking spices.  A very pretty wine.  Perfect for brunch or picnics.

2008 Sumac Ridge Gewürztraminer, Okanagan Valley
Certainly the palest of the group.  (See picture below.)  It was clear pale gold with slow tears.  Very approachable aromas of fruit salad, pinapple and pear.  Off dry.  Lowest in flavour intensity and length.  Still a good wine.  Approachable.  A good stepping stone into the world of heady Gewürztraminers.

2008 Wunsch et Mann Gewürztraminer, Alsace
Wow.  One of these things just doesn’t belong… Obviously not Okanagan Gew.  Medium gold colour with slow tears.  Great intensity on the nose.  HONEY, toast, baking spices, yellow apples, candied pineapple and fresh apricots.  Off dry.  Low acidity.  Full bodied.  Lingering flavours of honey, toast and spice.  This wine should come with a warning label “HEADY”.  It requires planning and the perfect pairing to serve this beast.  Delicious.

The Gewürztraminer Flight

In conclusion, I was right.  All of the Gewürztraminers were delicious, but they were not all the same, especially the Alsatian example.  No two wine regions are the same despite one or many similar growing conditions.  Each wine region should be celebrated for it’s own terroir and wine characteristics, not riding off the coattails of somewhere else.

Posted in Alsace, Gewürztraminer, Okanagan Valley | Leave a comment

Blending Rodney Strong’s Symmetry

Mark Anthony Group is the agency that represents the Californian winery Rodney Strong in Canada.  Mark Anthony Group in association with Rodney Strong organized a fun and interactive tasting of the Meritage blend called Symmetry at Canoe restaurant.  I was very excited to participate in this activity because even though I don’t typically drink Californian wines, I have always appreciated Rodney Strong Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, especially the Chalk Hill.  I suppose I like their wines because because the grapes are grown in cooler areas of California like Sonoma County and Alexander Valley.  As a result the wines exhibit elegance and cool climate qualities of interest to me.  I was unfamiliar with the Rodney Strong’s Meritage grape varieties and the blend itself. The experience introduced me to more of producer’s portfolio.

Tasting mat of the five grape varietals, lab sample bottles, graduated cylinder and pipettes for the blending exercise.

Rick Sayre, the Cheif Winemaker spoke of how he goes about blending trials and establishing Symmetry’s style and name.  After a brief presentation the participants were divided into three teams.  Each team had the task of creating a blend and naming it.  The wine would be judged by Rick Sayre and the name would be judged by the Marketing Manager.  The winning team would earn bragging rights and a coffee table book of photos from Sonoma County.  On my team I had the talent of some of Toronto’s finest restaurants; Leslie from FRANK’s at the AGO, Chris from Far Niente, Scott from Auberge du Pommier and Ugene from Biff’s.  We took a different approach to achieving our blend.  We each created our own 100ml blend as to how we thought it should best be proportioned. Then we tasted the five blends and scored them out of five. I am happy to say my blend won as the wine we would enter for our group.  What proved to be a more difficult task was choosing a name.  We Googled synonyms for the word symmetry.  Some awkward, unattractive names came about.  Scott and Leslie then came up with the idea to call the wine “Cordance”, taken from the word “concordance”.  It was beautiful, romantic and feminine just like the wine.

After the judging, Rick announced the winning wine, Equation.  Our wine won for the marketing name “Cordance”.  I spoke with Rick afterwards and he said our blend was the most Bordeaux-like and in a few years it would be superb.  That complement was better than winning.

Our team’s wine was comprised of:
60% Cabernet Sauvignon – the base canvas for the other varieties.
15% Cabernet Franc – the pure, light, red fruit character of this wine.
15% Petit Verdot –  highly aromatic with floral notes, particularly violets.
8% Merlot – for soft fruit.
2% Malbec – for juicy, approachability.

Konrad Ejbich (member of the winning team!) made a short video of the blending presentation and the winning wine.  Watch it by clicking here.  

Posted in Blends, California, Wine Education | Leave a comment

Cabernet Franc: The Other King

Cabernet Franc,  what is your purpose?  Often playing second fiddle to bigger bolder Cabernet Sauvignon or acting as a blending component are the two obvious answers.  Cabernet Franc does however play a leading role in some of the more “off the beaten track” wine regions.  My friend Melissa Smits hosted a Cabernet Franc Tasting on Saturday at Vineland Estates Winery, which she appropriately titled “The Other King”.  Cabernet Franc certainly is a noble grape with huge potential in up and coming grape growing regions. These regions may need more of an introduction than the already famed regions of Bordeaux or Napa however they are not to be underestimated.  Cabernet Franc is proudly grown and drank in places like the Bourgueil, Saumur and Chinon in Loire Valley and the same is true for Canadian wine regions such as The Okanagan Valley, The Niagara Peninsula and even in Prince Edward County.  Melissa’s tasting explored this less understood grape a little further.   We tasted three flights of Cabernet Franc blind. Here are my notes:

Flight One

Wine One
2009 Pond View Cabernet Franc Rosé, Niagara, ON
Bright pink salmon colour. Smelt and tasted like an old world rosé. Aromas of dark berries and licorice. Off dry. Medium bodied. Flavours of berries and spice. Enjoyable long length.
It tasted like “more”.

Wine Two
1995 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc, Niagara, ON
A developed nose.  Aromas of smoke, tar, spice and meat.  Hints of rubber and must. Medium weight. Medium minus body. Flavours of tar, smoke and dried herbs. Finished with notes of the raspberry and cherry.  This was the oldest Cabernet Franc I’ve ever tasted. I thought it was still enjoyable in it’s old age, but probably wouldn’t hold on much longer.  It lasted well for 16 years in 1.5L bottle.

Wine Three
2002 Vineland Estates Reserve Cabernet Franc Niagara, ON
Developing aromas of sweet herbs, black earth, black cherry and a mineral quality I will call graphite. Medium bodied. Fine grained tannins. Flavours of leather, cedar and red fruit.  A good wine.  Still available for sale at the winery.

Flight Two

Wine Four
2007 Rafael Cabernet Franc Long Island, NY
Youthful aromas of cola, black berry and spice. Long length. This wine got cool points because it was the first wine I’ve tasted from Long Island.  But overall the youthful candied flavours made it a not so serious wine.  And that’s okay. Best enjoyed on a picnic.  Side note: stainless steel ferment.  No oak.

Wine Five
2009 Domaine de Matabrune AC Bourgueil, Loire Valley
I was a little disappointed when this wine was revealed because it lacked any interesting qualities.  Youthful. Aromas of purple fruit, dust and heavy lees. Chewy tannins.

Wine Six
2007 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula, ON
Medium intensity.  Some volatile acidity – in a good way. Aromas of potpourri and red fruit. Flavours of spice.  Medium body and intensity.

Wine Seven
2007 Vineland Estates Reserve Cabernet Franc, Niagara Peninsula, ON
There was discussion on the health of this wine.  The exact fault could not be pinpointed, but it just didn’t taste right.  It could have been an isolated bottle.  I will have to make an effort to retaste this wine in the future.

Flight Three

Wine Eight
2005 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula, ON
Unfortunately this wine was corked.  It is on the retaste list if I ever get the chance.

Wine Nine
2008 Santa Margherita Cabernet Franc Veneto, Italy
Big points for this wine! It was complex and clean. Very direct flavours and aromas of berries, cinnamon, clove, dried roses and violets. Medium bodied. Medium plus acidity. Red fruit finish.  An excellent food wine.  I was happy to find out is available in VINTAGES for just $12.95.

Wine Ten
2005 Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula, ON
An intense wine. Probably the wine with the darkest flavours.  Aromas of black berry jam and chocolate lifted by VA.  Fine grained tannins. Flavours of herbs and chocolate on the palate. Lingering finish.  A good wine.

The tasting set up in the Carriage House at Vineland Estates.

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Canadian Wine, Niagara Peninsula | Leave a comment

Always Learning

Last Monday’s WSET class was top notch;  I didn’t anticipate it to be.  The focus was on wines from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus.  Not that I’ve got anything against wines from these countries, (I was quite looking forward to tasting Tokaji!)  but I wasn’t as familiar with them.  Getting into the reading was tough, as it involved learning aspects of another language while at the same time learning about the wines. After a period of time the lines and pages blurred together as I read paragraphs of many extremely long words with unfamiliar accents..   It reminded me of when I first began studying wine.  Not having a reference for what I was reading, I felt a little lost.  The language barrier was my first reason for not looking forward to class.  Reason number two: the instructor was John Szabo MS.  For those who don’t know, John became Canada’s first Master Sommelier in 2004.  He is heavily involved with the wine scene: consulting, writing, traveling, critiquing and teaching.  My perception of John was that he was one serious wine dude, (who never smiles in a photo).  Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated to attend class on unfamiliar subjects, in languages I can’t pronounce taught by a wine rock star.  Great.

I am pleased to report that class was much better than I had anticipated!  John generously brought a line up of 18 wines!   He brought a flight of Tokaji from his private cellar dating back to 1993.  He lectured and we tasted, we tasted and he lectured.  Though I don’t think “lecture” is the right word,  John simply shared stories of the people, towns and vineyards he had been to on his travels through Hungary and Greece.  He spoke of historic accounts and legendary folklore.  Class flew by.  At the end of class there were plenty of bottles left to take home.  I picked up my favourite white and red.

Later that evening, sharing what I’d learnt and the half bottles of wine with my best friend Chris, we discovered on the back label of the red wine that I had chosen that the bottle was in fact John’s wine.  John owns a vineyard in Hungary in the Eger region.  His wine is bottled under the lable Eged-Hegy Dülö, Egri Kékfrankos from J&J Wine Co.  The wine had great intensity in colour and aromas.  It smelt of dark cherries, blueberries and earth.  Well structured tannins and medium body.  The wine is made from Kékfrankos a.k.a. Blaufränkisch.  The area and grape are associated with the most famous Hungarian red wine known as Bull’s Blood.  The white wine I selected was made from a grape variety called Irsai Olivér.  It makes a highly aromatic wine similar to a Muscat or Torrontes.  A nice sipping wine.

People say they love wine because there is always something new to learn.  I truly felt that way this week and it was refreshing.

2009 Irsai Olivér, Balatonlellei, Garamvari Szölöbirtok, Lake Balaton, Hungary
2006 Eged-Hegy Dülö, Egri Kékfrankos, Eger, Hungaray

Posted in Hungarian Wine, Wine Education | Leave a comment