Friday, September 4, 2009
I’ll admit I am fussy when it comes to Pinot Noir, and I have a very short like list. I know a great one from a so-so or just good one, and there are a lot of so-so Pinot Noirs on the market. Don’t get me wrong, we are talking about the most difficult grape to make wine from after all. A good Pinot Noir is still preferred over good Gamay for me but, like I said, good doesn’t get my attention. Thus, my new found love affair with Rosehall run’s new 2007 Estate Pinot Noir (sold as 2007 Pinot Noir Rosehall Run). This is all PEC winery fruit. Right up the road from Norman Hardie, one of my favourite Pinot Noirs. There hasn’t been a worthy challenger to Norm’s Pinot Noir, until now. There msut be something in the soil in the area because I’m having a hard time deciding which is better. Maybe it’s a tie for now.
Dan Sullivan has been a favourite winemaker since I first tried his 2004 Cabernet Franc. I still love it and the 2007 did not disappoint. Since then, many of his wines have made it into my wine cellar, include the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir now. I only bought one bottle – I’ll have to solve that problem later. This is one of the best Pinot Noirs I’ve ever had. While tasting it was a dilemma – spit or swallow? Hmm…it was so lovely on the tongue, with deep fruit, tannins and just the right acidity. A perfect balance of all the things a Pinot Noir is supposed to have. The colour of this Pinot Noir is mesmerizing, the nose full of deep berries, smoke and tobacco. The wine hits the palette and has an amazing velvety smoothness. The berries, burst in flavour, the minerality floats. You’ll not want ot drink, but sip and savour every drop of this wine. It’s on my table with a juicy sirloin steak off the grill tonight…maybe with some grilled Salmon tomorrow.
This will be at the LCBO, or direct at the winery shortly, with a $37.95 price, and while it’s a bit steep, it is priced right for such a powerful Pinot Noir. Get it while you can, I suspect there won’t be much left as this will fly off the shelves.
Time to solve that one bottle problem I have right now.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
It is not a secret that the Ontario, and for that matter Canadian wine industry overall has two faces to it. The problem is they look very much alike, and consumers cannot see the difference at times. Unless you’re seeing this from the perspective of the industry itself, it is hard to tell. In that case, there is nothing new here. But the possibility of a majority foreign owned and controlled wine industry is a real possibility, where Chilean grape is the predominant fruit in the wines, and Ontario, BC and Ottawa seem hell-bent to let that happen.
A couple of weeks ago I went out unexpectedly to a winery I had not been to as of yet. To my surprise I was informed they had just entered receivership. I am not going to call them out here, to avoid any negative publicity on my part. I mentioned what I learned being the first to get the word amongst wine consultants and several of the wine writers simply were not shocked. They knew it was going to start someplace. It was just a matter of time, and which one would fail first. This is a winery that by all other accounts should be solidly successful. But this is where the very government that should be helping this industry succeed has allow policies to go on, that have done the very opposite.
It is anyone’s guess if this particular winery will survive and it’s simply too early to know where that will go. But it not the first, and from what I have gathered, will clearly not be the last. The amazing 2007 season, and subsequent wines, may postpone the fallout, but we are clearly approaching a cliff, that will either define the industry, or see it fall over it, possibly to be changed for the worse forever.
In a day when big corporations are vilified for irresponsibility, like selling Cellared in Canada illegally, the government has had an opportunity to fix some of the wrongs they have clearly party to; i.e. allowing things to happen that should never have gone on. Soon, unless the government takes actions soon, it will simply be too late to undo the damage. Ottawa, and the provincial government’s ignorance, arrogance and lack of accountability will bring to an industry that can rival that of California, France and anywhere else, to its knees or worse.
A few things have to happen, and happen soon to save this important economic industry. By my count, and I have talked to a lot of the wineries, as much as 45% of them, are financially distressed. As many as 1/2 of those are heading towards the cliff I talked about. Give it 3 more years. If nothing changes, the failures of the wineries will start to escalate. The result will be more Corporate wineries, more Cellared in Canada, vs. VQA, and a general deterioration of the world view of Ontario and Canadian wines. A new winery opening today has about a 15% chance of surviving to its fifth year, a year that usual signals profitability or doom.
So what needs to be done?
- A reduction in the fee structure for grape growers, and wineries that can make them competitive with the imports, which do not have such costs to bear.
- A property tax reduction or exemption from them, in the early years, to assist the wineries in getting started, similar to farm tax structures.
- A removal of the burdensome VQA fees, and review structure that is adding cost to the wineries needlessly. This can simply be reduced to a certification of 100% Canadian grape content. Some wineries that are 100% Canadian content, and would qualify for VQA, simply cannot afford the cost of becoming VQA certified. Yes it is that costly!
- Elimination of Cellared in Canada, or at least an added fee for selling it that would price the wines higher than 100% Canadian content wines.
- A tax credit for investments in the business for Canadian owned, VQA only wineries.
It may not amaze anyone to learn that all for the major foreign wine producers benefit from these very things. So again, Ontario, and Ottawa have missed an opportunity. But there is still time to right these wrongs. It is time to level the playing field.
But is the government even bothering to listen?
100% Canadian … All The Way, Anyday!!
The Ontario Wine Guy
Monday, March 23, 2009
Cellared in Canada: What Indiana & Tennessee wineries can teach us.
This self espoused lover/promoter of Ontario Wine, has a day job that has him on the road frequently. On a recent trip to the US, I had the opportunity to encounter some rather interesting wineries in places one would not think to find them. One was in Tennessee (Monteagle Winery), the other in Indiana (Chateau Thomas). It was the Indiana winery (Chateau Thomas) that got me thinking afterward. While the wine in Tennessee was 100% Tennessee grapes, nothing at the Indiana winery I visited was from Indiana. In fact the winery owner was emphatic in his belief Indiana was not a good grape growing region in his opinion, even if there are wineries that do grow their own grapes, and are heralded by some of the locals. But even if one disagreed with his position, he was 100% honest and up front about his wines. The labels, espoused Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, and all the areas the grapes had been obtained in California. While he made and bottled the wine in Indiana, the grapes, were clearly from other places. No confusion, No questions about the origin. So how come we can’t do that in Canada? What’s the big secret, and all this nonsense with Cellared in Canada? Why the misrepresentation?
The issues with Cellared in Canada, are simple. For starters it’s NOT Canadian wine.
A guess based on what I can find out, is that it’s Chilean, maybe even American, and yes I’ll allow for that Europe and Australian/New Zealand could be in there. What it’s not is 100% Canadian. What we do know is that is probably as little as 30% Canadian grapes in Ontario, and 0% Canadian grapes in BC, the minimum allowed.
At least that’s what the law allows, or did…
The other issue (I did say issues, plural above) is the law allowing for this expired years ago. Technically Cellared in Canada is illegal currently. Funny how the government that would be all over your back if you did something like this, looks the other way when they are making money off it. In the US, this would be Racketeering at its finest. It’s just business as usual here in Canada.
Cellared in Canada came about back when demand for wine was outstripping the availability of grapes locally. It was to be a stopgap to allow wineries to produce enough wine until grape production caught up. That happened, but now the pendulum has swung the other way. In 2008 Forty Tons of Ontario grapes rotted, unused, but worse, Cellared in Canada gained even more shelf space at the LCBO. How did this happen and why? It’s simple. Cheap imported grapes / bad trade laws, and a government that continues to promote the Ontario Wine industry with one hand while hurting it with the other.
As a point of confusion, I will highlight one winery that is clearly confusing the consumer. Constellation Brands is a U.S. company. It owns a lot of wineries across the globe. And it has a stranglehold on the Ontario Wine industry and a great deal of clout with the government, Wine Council and LCBO. Jackson Triggs is one of their biggest. Jackson Triggs makes VQA wines. 100% Canadian content. They also market Cellared in Canada wines. All that the consumer pays attention to, is “Jackson Triggs” on the label. Hmmm, confused? I am.
Let's face it, loyalty goes out the door when it comes to money. The wineries that are promoting Cellared in Canada are doing so simply to take advantage of cheaper foreign grapes, than grapes they can get at home. It has nothing to do with the quality of the grapes. The trade laws allow for it, so why not?
So what if it drives consumers into confusion?
So what if it hurts the domestic grape growers?
So what if local wineries fail? So what if jobs are lost?
So what if global opinion of Canadian wines suffers?
People in far off places are making a profit on us, during a recession. That’s good right?
Worse is our own government passing this stuff off as Canadian wine!! They served it at past and plan to again it at the Olympics. This is a massive fraud.
What they won’t do is tell us the source of the grapes in that bottle. Laws have to change.
So what can be done? Canadian consumers need to get their voices heard. Boycott Cellared in Canada. Just don’t buy it … Any of it. Buy Italian, or French, if you have no other VQA wine you like, BUT please don’t buy Cellared in Canada.
My final point is this: If Cellared in Canada is such a great idea, how come California, France, Australia, Chile don’t do this? Guess what? They don’t allow for it in their laws. So how come Canada does? Do we lack that much self respect as a nation?
Chateau Thomas got it right. Canada has it wrong. We can learn something here. The question is will anything change?
VQA ... is the only way … any day!!
- The Ontario Wine Guy.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I never saw the value of the blogging, given that so much of the stuff up on blogs is nothing but opinion with little fact to back it up. Even the experts get it wrong occasionally, and don't get me wrong, but I am no expert. I used to have that word in my job title, until I realized there is no such thing. I know what I know, and I don't know what I don't know. And hopefully, the later is getting smaller each day. Let's say I am very knowledgable and have lots to learn still and leave it there.
But what started this today, was that I read a blog from a friend, whom I regard highly. The blog did a lot of ranting as so many blogs do. The points are valid, but he never explained the positions clearly, or for for that matter understandably. there is so much more to the points he make. But he never goes there.
It seems a lot of bloggers do this.
So I am going to try not to do that one thing. No ranting here, just the positions, and the basis for it, laid out clearly and concisely. I may not write weekly, or monthly. I have no need to add to the junk heap of cyberspace. When it is merited I will write. And as a bonus, I'll even consider posting some reviews of my own here. And if you can check out the OWG website.
So pull up a chair when you can and join me for some interesting topics.
The Ontario Wine Guy