KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 4

4 12 2017

Man, this 2017 calendar just continues its emphatic strides towards difference and individuality and I just keep loving its uniqueness.  We get two new Whisky Advent firsts today (at least in my four years of following along):  (1) first ever CANADIAN whisky, and (2) first ever plastic bottle embedded in the calendar.  I almost dropped it pulling it out of slot #4 it was so light.  This is the very first ever spirit offering from Niagara’s Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery, the Red Cask Premium Crafted Whisky, which is distilled from locally grown grains and then, in a nod to its roots, matured in the winery’s own red wine barrels.  Very cool.  It has to be one of the least expensive whiskies ever to grace the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar as well, tipping the scales at a svelte $44 for a full bottle.

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This inaugural Advent offering from our home and native land is great to look at, a pleasantly burnished amber colour impressively obtained given what I wouldn’t expect to have been an extraordinarily long maturation period.  It smells equal parts spicy and toasty, cinnamon and charcoal, layered with elastic bands, Old Fashioned-style citrus and melon fruit.  The double-take portion of the whisky comes in the form of its ultra-satiny, almost gelatinous texture, like a Jello shot or an alcoholic Jujube.  It billows out on the tongue like a roasting marshmallow and then sits there, inflated and cooked on the edges, hanging out.  I wrote “is this rye-based?” when pepper and sandpaper started biting my tastebuds, and I was at least partially right:  it’s part aged rye, part malted rye and part corn-based whisky, each distilled separately.  The corn comes through in the Bourbon-esque caramel, burnt orange and Creamsicle flavours, lending easy approachability to the whole affair.  On the whole, while the mouthfeel seems slightly exaggerated, this stands up quite well as a solid weeknight sipper.  O Canada.

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2014 Henry of Pelham Old Vines Baco Noir

5 10 2016

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

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Welcome Baco.

I admit to approaching this bottle with a slight sense of foreboding.  One benefit of learning about wine is that it helps you pinpoint rare or obscure high-quality grapes or regions that are under-appreciated, and thus underpriced, by the market.  However, one drawback is that it can stratify your thinking about what quality looks like and give rise to unwitting prejudice about varietals or areas that aren’t always known for it.  Baco Noir, like all hybrid grapes, falls within the latter category.  But this bottle is proof that wine prejudice can be overcome.

Almost all of the quality wine grapes in the world, including all of the varieties you can list within 5 seconds of reading this sentence (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, etc.), belong to a grape species called Vitis vinifera, widely (and accurately) known to be the best of the many families of grapes in the world for wine production.  A hybrid grape is a cross between different species of grapes; in wine-speak that usually means a cross between a vinifera grape and a non-vinifera grape.  These crossings almost always arise out of intentional experiments by people looking to combine the flavour, quality and structure of vinifera with non-aesthetic desirable characteristics of the other species, usually ability to withstand weather or disease, ease of ripening or size of yield.  Spoiler:  they usually don’t accomplish all of these goals. 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 »





Wine Review: 2010 13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling

14 12 2011

Try to ignore the obvious Chap Stick stains on the glass...who proofs these photos anyway??

Since my last Canadian Riesling experience was an earth-shattering one, I figured I would go back to the well tonight and see if I could keep the streak going.  While the previous Riesling I had from my home and native land (the 2010 Tantalus) came from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, this one comes from over 4,000 km eastward, from the Creek Shores sub-region of Niagara, Ontario.  My friend Corey recently toured the vineyards of Niagara and scooped this bottle for me during a visit to 13th Street Winery (social tip:  good friends remember your favourite grape), which is based in St. Catharines, Ontario and has been around for almost 15 years.  The fruit for this single-vineyard Riesling comes from Lincoln, Ontario, which is halfway between St. Catharines and Hamilton and seems like a really strange wine centre until you realize that it’s bordered on the North AND South by heat-reflecting, temperature-moderating Great Lakes.  Since I see way less Niagara wine around in Calgary than Okanagan wine, I was quite eager to see what the other half of the country had to offer in terms of quality Riesling.  Firmly suppressing my Western Alienation, I de-Stelvined the bottle and got to work.

Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon

5 08 2011

$15 Canadian Cab...don't get me started.

Oh, Canada…I had been starting to feel a glimmer of optimism about red wines from my home and native land after positive recent experiences with producers like Laughing Stock (Okanagan) and Tawse (Niagara), but just as I began to forget why Canadian reds have until recently been an endless source of frustration for me, tonight happened.  My consternation isn’t that these wines are terrible (though some are); it’s that too much of the wine industry here seems locked in to grapes and wines that we are hard pressed to make better than many other regions around the world.  Cabernet Sauvignon is a case in point.  Why take one of the most heat-loving, slow-ripening, warm-weather grapes out there and try to specialize in making single-varietal wines out of it north of the 49th parallel?  Why especially would you try to target the sub-$20 price range with your Cabs when better-situated producers with hotter weather and cheaper land from Chile, Argentina, Australia and California basically have that market covered?  Where is the global competitive advantage in that approach?  We need a new business plan. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Tawse Wismer Vineyard Cabernet Franc

14 04 2011

Tonight’s wine review is (very mildly) historic:  the first Canadian wine featured in this Canadian wine blog.  I have probably picked a good inaugural selection, since the Tawse Winery in Ontario’s Niagara region won the  2010 Canadian Winery of the Year Award from Wine Access Magazine.  I picked up this particular wine from Highlander in Marda Loop after being advised that it would “blow my mind”…them’s drinking words!

O Canada!

Despite living in Canada my entire life, I don’t drink a lot of Canadian wine, particularly Canadian red wine, so I approached this one with some degree of trepidation.  But I was excited to open any bottle of Cabernet Franc, which is an underused and underappreciated grape, especially in marginal wine climates like Canada.  Some interesting facts about Cab Franc:  (1) it is believed to be the genetic parent of the much-more-renowned-and-ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon (with the white grape Sauvignon Blanc strangely the other parent, as strange a love match as that seems); and (2) it ripens earlier and grows better in cooler areas than Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes Cab Franc an intelligent choice for Canadian winemakers faced with a short growing season (did I mention it snowed in Calgary yesterday?), colder temperatures and a latitude right at the tip of where grapevines can actually grow (they don’t grow much above 50 degrees Latitude, and the northern tip of the Great Lakes in Ontario is at 49 degrees).  Cabernet Franc is commonly found to have some greener herbaceous or vegetal flavours mixed in with its fruit, anything from grass or leaves to olives, asparagus or green peppers, which notes set its flavour profile apart from the riper, lusher Cab Sauvignon.

…But not so much in this case:  this was a plush, silky take on the varietal that almost came across like its warmer-weather cousin. Read the rest of this entry »








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