Ripasso and Appassimento in Niagara: A Virtual Tasting with Barclay Robinson, Winemaker at The Foreign Affair

15 04 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

As a wine lover, I often feel I am walking a tightrope of sorts between appreciation of bare-bones, terroir-driven wines of place on the one hand, and esoteric, funky winemaking techniques on the other. My allegiance gravitates implicitly to the former camp, populated by relatively pure expressions of soil and grape variety that eschew the muddying effects of various vinification tricks of the trade. Then again, I can be a sucker for the weird, particularly if there is true intent behind the decision to use a particular cellar technique: the careful realization of a particular vinous vision can be every bit as compelling as what results from a more hands-off approach. It turns out that in some cases, particular techniques are the tradition. And traditions, like other aspects of culture, are meant to be shared, applied to new contexts, and ultimately celebrated.

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Enter Barclay Robinson, winemaker at Ontario producer The Foreign Affair, who recently shared the story and results behind some of these techniques and traditions in a personal virtual tasting.  This was a lot of fun, Barclay being exactly the sort of guy I like tasting with: erudite yet down to earth, funny yet quick to impart knowledge. The winery, situated in the Vineland area of the Niagara Peninsula, is completely unique in the Canadian context. Founders Len and Marisa Crispino lived as expats in Italy, where they fell in love with the Amarone wines of Valpolicella. These burly concoctions are made using the the appassimento process, in which the grapes are dried after harvest for to up to 6 months, typically resting on bamboo racks or straw mats, or alternatively strung up from the ceiling where air can circulate and work its dehydrating magic. These raisined grapes provide a very concentrated must (the juice to which yeast is added after crushing to make wine), which makes fermenting the resulting wine to total dryness quite a challenge. I have grown to appreciate Amarone over the last year or so, although its combination of high alcohol, intense flavour concentration, and a unique nut-like bitterness can be polarizing. The Crispinos decided to bring this winemaking approach to Ontario, albeit using the Bordeaux varietals known to do well in the Niagara Peninsula (alas, Niagara Corvina is not a thing at this juncture). Read the rest of this entry »

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Wine Review: 2011 Mission Hill Reserve Riesling

25 06 2012

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Canada, meet your new favourite grape.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll be aware of my completely transparent devotion for Riesling, the top wine grape of all in my books and the star of the show in my favourite white-producing country, Germany.  It’s also a varietal that is starting to be developed more seriously in the major wine regions of my home nation of Canada, both in the Okanagan Valley in the west side of the country and the Niagara Peninsula in the east.  This comes as a huge relief to me:  we’re definitely still a country trying to find its identity wine-wise, and thanks to our climate and latitude it will always be a steep challenge for us to produce big reds in all but the most privileged sites, so one way to get recognition as a serious wine nation in an increasingly competitive market is to focus our energy and resources into developing the absolute best quality wine grapes that thrive in cooler, more marginal conditions.  That’s where Riesling comes in.  It creates some of the best, longest-lived wines in the world, but it also embraces sites at extreme wine-growing latitudes with colder average temperatures and shorter growing seasons…in fact, it reaches its apex in these types of locations.  I think Canada and Riesling are a vinous match made in heaven, so it was with great anticipation that I cracked this bottle, sent to me by one of BC’s largest producers, Mission Hill. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2010 Tawse Riesling

28 03 2012

Tawse Riesling: Niagara's great white hope?

Long time no speak!  Although it’s been awhile since you’ve seen any activity on this blog, rest assured that it’s not because I’ve been lazy; I’ve been writing, just nothing that was immediately publishable.  Make sure to check back on this site Friday evening, when my third monthly PnP/Calgary Is Awesome joint article will be posted, featuring a one-of-a-kind personality from a wine store that’s near and dear to my heart.  I’ve spent the past few days getting that piece polished up and also writing a feature for a local project that will be unveiled shortly, but at some point recently I realized that I hadn’t actually put anything up on Pop & Pour for over a week.  Let’s remedy that now.

Since last Monday’s post was about Old World Riesling (from arguably the top vineyard in Germany, Bernkasteler Doctor), I decided to pick a New World Riesling for tonight as a counterpoint, the entry-level Riesling from Tawse Winery in the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario.  Tawse is an excellent candidate to represent Canada’s burgeoning ability to produce high-level Riesling:  it was named Canadian winery of the year for both 2010 and 2011 by Wine Access magazine and is one of Ontario’s most respected producers.  I like to see Ontarian and British Columbian wineries showcase their Riesling skills because (1) I love Riesling and (2) it is a grape that matches our climate, growing well in slightly cooler areas and reaching its apex in a country, Germany, that’s on an almost identical latitude to ours.  I’d never had the chance to sit down with a full bottle of Tawse Riesling until tonight, so I was psyched to twist off the cap and get going. Read the rest of this entry »








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