Friday, 28 August 2015

Nobilo Wines, Marlborough, New Zealand

Nobilo: Nikola Nobilo left Croatia in the 1940s and made New Zealand his new home. While his family (and Croatia) had a wine-making tradition (Miljenko Grgich of Grgich Hills in Napa, California immigrated to the United States from Croatia in 1954), New Zealand did not have a developed industry. The Nobilo family (and other Croatian immigrants) found only fortified wine and that led to Nikola's decision to make wine. At first the wine was destined for family consumption but word (and wine) spread to neighbours, including current Nobilo wine maker David Edmonds' parents, and eventually a commercial winery was born.

Social:  Unfortunately I have yet to visit New Zealand but I was invited, along with other Ottawa-based sommeliers and wine writers and bloggers to taste Nobilo wines over lunch at the sophisticated Ottawa restaurant "Social." The chef and bar manager at Social put together a delicious menu to pair with various vintages and styles of two varietals from Nobilo wines: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014: I should admit that I am generally not a fan of Sauvignon Blanc. The varietal, especially the New Zealand style, is commonly recognized by the aromas of canned asparagus or peas and cat urine. In France the varietal is known as Sancerre after the appellation of that name in the Loire Valley.  So I was pleasantly surprised with the superb quality of David Edmonds' winemaking. The Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 has abundant aromas of passionfruit (maracuya), pineapple, melons, lemon-lime, and herbs. It represents a blend from vineyards in different sub-regions in Marlborough. On the palate it was crisp and acidic with mouthwatering flavours of green apple, passionfruit and unripened pineapple. It was the perfect pairing for quickly seared tuna sprinkled with spicy red pepper and served with wasabi and cucumber.

Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2014:  This rendition of the varietal was not a fruit forward wine like the Regional Collection. Rather, it has predominant aromas and flavours of minerality, lime and green herbs. I could detect some pepper that winemaker Dave Edmonds pinpointed as jalapeño pepper. This wine did have a hint of asparagus on the palate and indeed paired well with Social's asparagus salad.


Icon Pinot Noir 2010, 2013, 2014: We tasted three vintages and each was very distinct from the other. The 2010 vintage, no longer available for sale, was a complex wine with aromas of peppery, smoke, ripe red fruit, blueberry and additional flavours of leather, dark chocolate and licorice. In the mouth the 2010 was silky smooth, well integrated tannins, medium plus body and dry. At 15% alcohol it was a bit "hot" with the lamb. The 2013 was more fruit forward on the nose but with other aromas of white pepper, game, forest floor and mocha. This lighter body wine and brigher acidicty was the perfect match with the grilled lamb which had been rubbed with delicious harissa (Tunisian hot chile paste). The 2013 vintage is currently available in Ontario. The 2014 Pinot was a delicious blend of dark cherry, forest floor and toasty caramel.  These wines are on a medium grain French oak for about 9 months. The oak aromas and flavours still need to integrate and the wine could age for a few more years.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


Bogota Beer Company:  The BBC calls itself the biggest small brewery in Colombia. Many of the company's regular beers are named after a neighbourhood or cultural event in Bogotá. On a recent trip I tasted the Monserrate in a restaurant and on the following weekend I prepared my own tasting with four other beers (conveniently sold in small bottles).  My tasting notes follow:

The name of the beer refers to the mountain that rises over 3,000 metres above the city centre. It can be reached by foot, funicular or tram.  This red beer has won international medals.
colour: a light red
aromas: cereal, buckwheat honey, toasted walnuts, orange blossom
flavours: cereal, honey, brown sugar, orange pith
malt: medium to medium plus
hops:low med
finish: medium length

Candelaria Clasica
The Candelaria is the historic centre of Bogotá and sits below Monserrate. It has colonial architecture and stone streets where tourists and bogotanos visit museums, libraries, art galleries and national government buildings.
aroma: - cereal, honey,citrus (very Little aroma)
flavour - very clean, cereal ; short finish; drops quickly; Kolsch style

Chapinero Porter
North of the city centre is an expansive neighbourhood that was historically the residence and work place of artisans, including shoemakers. More recently, the old homes in the northeasternmost part of Chapinero have been converted into restaurants and the area has become a gourmet zone referred to as zona G.
colour: dark brown but translucent
aromas: molasses, chocolate, licorice, smoke
flavours: molasses, coffee, chocolate
malt: medium-high
hops: low
finish: long, coffee on palate
BBC Premium Lager
The label claims this to be blond lager made from a German recipe and it is the only lager made by BBC.
colour: golden
aromas: cereal, honey, spring wáter
flavours: honey, biscuit
malt: medium
hops: low
finish: crisp, refreshing;short length

Cajica Honey Ale
Cajica is a municipality just north of Bogotá. The beer won world's best honey beer medal
colour: yellow
aromas: wildflower, clover, honey, nuts, cinnamon
flavours: honey, cereal
malt: low-medium
hops: low
finish: short, clean, crisp, refreshing

Sunday, 19 October 2014


Naturally Made Wines:  Bloomer Creek Vineyards was my favourite wine tasting experience in the Finger Lakes region during my late summer visit. Kim Engle shared his passion for viticulture and natural vinification processes while I tasted 8 wines in their bright and welcoming tasting room. Engle and his wife, Debra Bermingham, created Bloomer Creek over 30 years ago.  Most Bloomer Creek wines are made from grapes grown in one of the four vineyards located at different points between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. With the help of an assistant winemaker, Katy, a graduate from Cornell University's Viticulture and Enology program, the owners employ natural winemaking styles that require patience and skill. Grapes are grown without the use of herbicides and then hand-harvested and pressed in small batches. Fermentation is done with ambient (wild) yeasts in small lots and later blended.  Bloomer Creek wines are generally not filtered or fined.

Purchasing Bloomer Creek Wines:  While some Bloomer Creek wines are served at New York City restaurants the wines are available for purchase only through the winery. (Unfortunately I found few Finger Lakes wines at local restaurants). The winery is located on the east side of Seneca Lake at 5301 Route 414, Hector, New York. You can phone 607-546-5027 to arrange your visit or check out their website:  I decided to purchase 4 bottles even though Canada Customs sets a 2 bottle limit. Bloomer Creek wines are well priced and a testament to artful winemaking.

Tasting Notes: The Finger Lakes is renowned for its high quality whites, especially Rieslings, and Bloomer Creek whites did not disappoint. I tasted the following four (out of many more):

Tanzen Dame Edelzwicker - This wine is a blend of Gewurztraminer and Cayuga White grapes and has aromas and flavours of citrus (lime), honey, and minerality. This wine has not been fined.

Bloomer Creek Vineyard Tanzen Dame Riesling 2012 - This wine is a blend of Riesling from different vineyards. While the aromas were predominantly floral and petrol I detected honey, citrus and apricot flavours. This Riesling is nicely balanced.  I purchased this wine.

Chardonnay 2011 -  The aromas and flavours were of ripe pinepapple, orange and buttery caramel, reminiscent of a barrel aged Chardonnay. Kim explained that 50% of the wine is aged in old oak and 50% in stainless steel.

Bloomer Creek Vineyard 2013 Dry Riesling - This Riesling was delicious and fuller bodied; with aromas of apples, cinnamon, honey and orange blossoms. I picked up apple, honey and citrus flavours. I also purchased this Riesling.

Kim selected a rose and three reds for me to taste:

Pinot Noir Dry Rosé: The Pinot Noir rosé is quite dry with typical pinot descriptors of sour cherry with an earthiness. It has a medium acidity and would be very easy to pair with a variety of summer dishes. I purchased a bottle of this unfined and unfiltered rosé.

Cabernet Franc 2011:  In my opinion Bloomer Creek has made a superior Cab Franc in that it is more complex in aromas and flavours than are commonly found in this cold climate red varietal. Partial carbonic maceration (grapes are fermented whole in a carbon-dioxide rich environment) is used, resulting in fruit flavours and lower tannins. I detected aromas of ripe raspberries, strawberries, cherries and green grass while white pepper was also evident once I tasted the wine. 

Cabernet Franc 2010:  This vintage was drier and had a longer finish than the 2011 Cab Franc. The 2010 had aromas of sweet cherry, strawberries and white pepper while the flavours were sour cherry, leather and spice. This wine would pair well with coq au vin or beef.  I brought this wine home as well.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007:  While this varietal was planted about 30 years ago Bloomer Creek has not made much Cabernet Sauvignon simply because the climate is not amenable to this varietal. Given that Cabernet Sauvignon requires a long growing season and a high number of sunny days I thought this Bloomer Creek wine was a decent example of a cold climate Cab Sauv. It had aromas of red currants, raspberries, black pepper, baking spices and eucalyptus.  I also found leather and spice on the palate. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


Kawartha Country Wines: This winery is the largest producer of fruit wines in Ontario and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. I visited the winery, located between Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, in early July and had the opportunity to taste a variety of dry fruit wines and one grape wine in the log cabin (the original structure was built in 1866) that serves as a store and tasting bar. John Rufa, owner and vintner, also spoke to me about the vinification process.

Vinification Process: John begins with fruit grown at the vineyard or sourced from Niagara growers. Although the winery produces cold climate grapes and wine I was interested in the dry fruit wine-making process.  Given that each fruit differs in levels of water, acid and sugar, each fruit wine requires a slightly different process in the first stages. Depending on the firmness of the fruit different amounts are used to produce the "must" and this crushed fruit is then brought to the same pH levels as grapes (pH level for grape wine is generally between 2.9 and 4.7). The fermentation process then proceeds as it does for grape wine-making.  John is busy wine-making from July each year when he starts with strawberries, the first fruit of the Ontario summer season, and his work continues into autumn.

Wine-tasting notes:  While over 35 varieties of wines are produced (a total of 25,000 litres annually), I chose to focus on dry fruit wines wines. I tasted eight fruit wines and one Pinot Noir.

Rhubarb:  The wine had aromas and flavours of citrus and the herbaceous of green rhubarb. It is only slightly off dry and would pair beautifully with salmon. This wine won a silver medal at a recent Canadian wine competition.

Summer Breeze:  Aromas and flavours of cherries and strawberries. It's dry but jammy on the palate.

Tenth Anniversary:  This blend of elderberry and blackberry is dry and had a longer finish than the other wines I tried.

Blackberry: This wine is tart and mouthwatering and less fruit forward than the previous wines I tasted.

Blackcurrant: While the label notes this wine is off dry it is quite tart. It has strong black current aromas and flavours and I would pair it with pork tenderloin.

Elderberry:  This "off dry" had less fruit sweetness than the other berry wines but enjoyable flavours. It was drying in the mouth with a very slight bitterness.

Pumpkin Dry:  I detected aromas of squash and a slight earthiness while the flavours were green vegetable and the slight bitterness of pumpkin seeds. It was drying on the palate, had a light body and medium length.

Peach: This off dry wine had aromas and flavours of biscuit and subtle ripe peach. It could be served as an apertif with a variety of cheeses.

Pinot Noir: This was the only grape varietal I tasted. It had strong cherry aromas and a woody flavour. It seemed more tannic than what I expected.

The wines are sold directly at the winery and through their website:

Visiting: If you're in the Kawartha region near Buckhorn I would recommend a visit to the tasting bar. The tasting is complementary as John is confident that once you taste you will want to purchase the wines. I was pleasantly surprised that the wines were dry and food friendly and decided to purchase the Rhubarb, Tenth Anniversary and Peach wines.