Where do you start?
In addition to being the title of one of my favourite songs, it’s also a good question to pose when one is about to discuss the 2012 instalment of the Winnipeg Wine Festival, which took place last weekend at the Convention Centre. But naturally, it just makes sense to start at the beginning.
My husband, Ken, and I first visited the Canadian section — Wines of British Columbia and Wine Country Ontario were the featured products this year. But in the first three hours of the first of three public tastings, that’s all we managed to accomplish — visits to some of the Canadian booths. Even then we didn’t get to sample all of the wines on offer.
And it’s folly to try. I’ve attempted to do so before, and it’s simply not possible. So I picked some ‘must haves’ ahead of time, and headed for those tables as soon as the doors opened.
I know I’ll only get to a few of the wines today, but rest assured, there’ll be much more in upcoming columns about the wines I discovered at the festival.
As much as I enjoy it, the event is a bit daunting, if not overwhelming, simply because of its size and scope. And that’s just the public tastings — the preceding week is filled with dinners and special tastings and auctions and all manner of unique happenings.
But the public tastings are an unparalleled opportunity for folks to try wines that are already available in our provincial Liquor Marts, as well as others that are only available at the show. Most of what I sampled were wines we could already get here, since it seemed counterproductive to write about wines as if to tease, and then say, "Nyah, nyah — the joke’s on you, because they’re not available here, and I tasted them and you didn’t!" There were, however, a few standouts that I’ll mention in case folks are doing some travelling and might be able to pick them up elsewhere. And a wine-tasting tour of the Niagara region and/or BC wine country would certainly be a great holiday.
But I digress.
While I usually try to make Vine Lines a lot more about story than just product reviews, I think it’s best today to just get right to the wines. Because there’s plenty to talk about, and only so much space. And look how much I’ve used up already!
Anyway, we started at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery table — many people I’d talked to ahead of time said Burrowing Owl was an absolute MUST-taste, and when that many folks are that enthusiastic, there’s usually something to what they’re saying. We first tasted the 2009 Chardonnay, which, happily, is available at Manitoba Liquor Marts. And it was delightful. It’s fruit forward, not heavily oaked, and designed for early consumption. The price is $33.21.
The Burrowing Owl Merlot, too, was a great wine. It was very dry and had a lot of depth for a Merlot, and was punchier than some. A lot of folks like Merlot for its smoothness, and while this had a lot of finesse, it had an edge that I appreciate, but that some people might not.
As mentioned earlier, some of the wines showcased at the festival were only available for purchase AT the festival, and this Merlot was one of them. I have no idea about the price point for the red because since it’s not available here, there was no reason to find out. I really liked it, but if the price is similar to the Chard, well, frankly, it’s not one I’d be able to buy on a regular basis.
But here it’s perhaps necessary to note that if one wants to support a burgeoning Canadian wine industry — and I do — I have to expect, for some of these wines, to pay a bit more than I might otherwise, simply because many of the truly wonderful Canadian products made by are boutique wineries. These, understandably, produce much less wine than some of the other mega-companies out there, so they have to bump up the price of their products in order to stay afloat. Just a brief explanation in case you’re wondering why some of this nation’s wines are a bit on the pricey side.
Both Ken and I quite enjoyed the 2010 Cedar Creek Estate Winery Riesling — it’s semi-dry but very nice (very aromatic, very fruity) — just an all-around pleasant sipper for $18.99. As well, the Cedar Creek 2011 Pinot Gris ($19.02) was easy to take — a hair on the sweet side, I thought, with shades of Sauvignon Blanc, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Inniskillin Estates, one of this country’s major producers, featured its 2011Reserve Chardonnay — a very nice, lightly oaked beverage that was only available at the show. But for $15.99, if can snag a bottle while travelling, it’s well worth a try.
The Inniskillin Discovery Series 2008 Chenin Blanc was a pleasant surprise, and a wine I plan to pick up at the Liquor Mart very soon. You could almost smell the creaminess that the texture delivered. Again, this wine was a tad sweeter than might be expected from a Chenin, but we liked it. I noted that it was "interesting — and weird." And since there were only 500 cases of this produced, I’d suggest grabbing some before the stock is depleted.
Another big name, Jackson Triggs Estate Winery, was pouring some reasonably priced offerings, including the Black Series Chardonnay, which is light and satisfying — not earth-shatteringly spectacular or anything, but again, worth a try for $14.02 a bottle.
I REALLY liked the Triggs Silver Series Viognier, even more so when I discovered the price was $15.42. And both the Black Series Chard and the Silver Series Viognier are available at Manitoba Liquor Marts.
I’ll have much more on the products we sampled at the Winnipeg Wine Fest in upcoming columns. Be prepared for some unusual recommendations for me — I tried, at this year’s event, to broaden my horizons a bit and not be quite so judgemental. So those who like sweeter sippers and Pinot Noir — have I got something for you!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 12, 2012