Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Thursday, June 08, 2006
A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose
Friday, June 02, 2006
Ontario Wineries - Daniel Lenko Estate Winery
The excitement began when we got to Daniel Lenko, that’s Daniel Lenko, not Gary Danko! We were greeted by Daniel’s father, a sweet man, who subsequently offered us a sample of his exceptional apricot jam. The Lenkos have been growing chardonnay since the 1950s and have some of the oldest vines in the region. Jim Warren told us that Daniel Lenko is as close as you can come to a cult wine in Niagara. Lenko claims to have 12,000 people on his mailing list and considering that he only makes somewhere between 2500 and 5000 cases, these wines are indeed hard to get. You can only buy them at the winery, if you are lucky enough to find them open or from the mailing list. Many wines are only available by the case.
Daniel showed us around his “farm.” No herbicides or artificial fertilizer are used. Daniel is especially proud of a big piece of machinery for putting drainage pipe in the vineyard. Lenko has only one employee and basically does it all himself – vineyard management, winemaking, marketing and publicity. A handsome man, who seems quite self-impressed, Daniel could, as a French liqueur salesman once said, charm the pants off anyone. This is actually quite unnecessary as his wines speak for themselves, especially the whites. Daniel told us that when he decided to make wine he had to choose between putting his money into a Corvette or his winery. He made the right choice – the winery. He should be able to buy the Corvette any day now. Lenko is quite a maverick who makes wine the way he wants. He is an Ayn Rand kind of winemaker who doesn’t want to be told what to do by anybody. He sets his prices according to his own estimate of the quality of each wine.
The 2004 Reserve Riesling is dry, but delicious. The 2004 Unoaked Chardonnay is similar to a Hogue Unoaked Chardonnay we had several years ago, but much more European in style. The 2004 Viognier is cold fermented on the lies and tastes better than any comparable Rhone white. The 2002 Old Vines Chardonnay is aged in American Oak and has more complexity than the unoaked chardonnay, but I preferred the cool refreshing minerality of the unoaked version. Like so many of the reds I tasted in Ontario, Lenko’s had a green dry, astringent quality that stop them from being in the same class as the whites. Lenko is aware of this and attributes it to a short growing season. He says he may stop making reds. The 2000 Ice Wine was quite good. Lenko calls Ice Wine “the Las Vegas of wine, all show and no go.” If Lenko were to get his wines into Las Vegas restaurants, he could buy a Ferrari, instead of the Corvette, but then who am I to tell him what to do.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Ontario Wine - Peninsula Ridge
Half of the 2004 Merlot was fermented in oak, half in stainless. It had a hint of tobacco in the nose and bright cherry flavors. The 2001 Arcanum is a blend of Merlot Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Syrah added to the classic Bordeaux grapes led me to expect a wine similar to Washington Bordeaux-style. Not exactly! A wine with complex flavors of leather, raspberries, and cherry, but not as balanced as I had hoped. The 2002 Reserve Cabernet had a strong bouquet of eucalyptus and tobacco followed by raspberry flavors. It could definitely use another few years of ageing.
We tasted two unusual wines – 2001 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine and 2004 Ratafia. The Ice Wine had a reddish mahogany color like a Tawny Port, but tasted most like the French Banyuls. Too much honey and caramel for my taste. The Ratafia was made from unoaked Chardonnay blended with distilled plum wine. The dominant tangerine flavor was appealing. This is definitely a sweet after dinner wine more in the spirit of a liqueur or eau de vie than a table wine.
This winery is probably fairly typical of Niagara wineries. Everything is professionally done and many of the wines are interesting, but not quite world class.