Friday, October 16, 2009

It’s Harvest Time…

I love this time of the year – spending time with family and friends, the smell of Roast Turkey wafting from the kitchen, helping friends harvest their local vineyards, and the knowledge that in about a year, those grapes you helped harvest are going to be a delicious bottle of wine.

This year, I was helping my friends at Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery harvest their Chardonnay. Each year it is different – my first year was Pinot Noir, last year was Baco Noir, this year it was a white grape. Just before we started picking early on a Saturday morning in October, I decided I should update my Facebook status to “Picking Chardonnay at Lacey Estates today”. Within an hour of posting that, I was receiving comments on my status like “And great Chard it will be!!” and “Excellent, always nice to open a bottle of wine that you know you had a hand in making.” Honestly, I could not agree more with these two statements. I have already tried Lacey Estates inaugural vintage of Chardonnay and, not being a major Chardonnay fan, I can unequivocally say that it is one of the best Ontario Chardonnay’s I have had in a very long time. As for the second comment, this is what I said, “Most definitely. I was thinking yesterday what a sense of pride winemakers must have when they finally have a chance to try the final product.” In fact, during the whole picking process – which is back breaking work – someone said to me that when it is in the bottle it all feels worth it.”’

With all of the hard work going on in the vineyards at this time of the year, it is very easy to think with longing towards the end of the day and the wonderful meal set to take place at the end of the day. You know, in a way, this is one advantage that – I think – Canadians have over Americans. All of the wine producing regions in North America are in full harvest mode but, for us lucky Canadians, this is also the time of year that we have Thanksgiving while the Americans have to wait a month and a half for their Thanksgiving feast. Canadian Thanksgiving weekend invariably falls half way through harvest time in Ontario so there is almost always a harvest party to enjoy if you are not joining a family celebration for the weekend but, in my family, we always have this wonderful, delicious moist Roast Turkey with all the fixings.

Now, I am sure a lot of you have heard the old adage when it comes to wine pairing – “White Meat, White Wine; Red Meat, Red Wine.” This is the one time of the year that I like to show people that you can completely break those rules and go bold with a Red wine with your Turkey or Ham. A number of years ago, a friend came to me to ask me for a recommendation on an Ontario wine for Thanksgiving dinner so I decided to give him my ultimate change of mind recommendation – Willow Springs Baco Cab Franc. Now, unfortunately, the winery does not make this as a blend every year but they do make each of these wines individually so buy a bottle of each, and blend it in a decanter together. This year, another wine friend of mine (and his) asked him what his wine choice was for a turkey. It turns out he still does the Baco Cab Franc blending…it must be a favourite with his family. So, with this in mind, let me share with you some of my favourite wines to pair with your next Turkey dinner.

Rosehall Run Vineyards 2006 Rosehall Vineyard Pinot Noir
$29.75 per bottle
I speak from experience when I say this one pairs extremely well with Roast Turkey because we had this with our Turkey dinner on Sunday. Black cherry and mocha aromatics give way to a fruity, smoky palate. It has an almost barely there structure to the palate but with the slight tannins and grip to the finish, this wine will be ready to drink anywhere between 2009 and 2012.

33 Vines 2007 Cabernet Franc
$24 per bottle
Quite simply – a really great wine! I love the colour in the glass – it is an inky purple almost black colour. The aromas scream blackberry, jam, violets and currants with a slight hint of herbal at the end. Before you even take your first sip of this wine, it is screaming to be paired with chocolate…and who are we to deny a wine that?

The palate has a hint of spice at the tip of the tongue but only if you are trying it without any chocolate. It is mostly jammy but with a good base of currants and black fruit to bring complexity to the flavours. The great thing about this wine is that not only does it pair extremely well with Roast Turkey, it also is a wine that begs for chocolate so you could easily keep going with this wine through dessert.

Lacey Estate Vineyards & Winery 2007 Baco Noir
$20 per bottle
Baco Noir is one of those great Ontario wines that is over the top fruit in both the aromas and the palate. It is that fruity nature that makes it a perfect match with Roast Turkey and, especially, cranberry relish. Lacey Estate’s Baco Noir is currently sold out but it is definitely one that, year after year, will pair beautifully with Turkey or Ham plus all the fixings.

Cattail Creek Estate Winery 2007 Cabernet Franc
$18.00 per bottle
Cabernet Franc tends to have the fruitiest character of the Cabernet grapes – cherry, plum, black fruit all abound in typical Cabernet Francs and this wine has all three. In this particular version, they also mix and mingle with cigar, tobacco, vanilla and that oh so wonderful chocolate flavour to make this a truly complex wine. Out of all the red wines out there, this one would probably be the heartiest that I would pair with Turkey or Ham but if you do not want a hearty Chardonnay, this is an excellent choice for you.

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery 2005 Baco Noir Reserve
$24.95 per bottle
In the last two years you keep hearing how the 2007 vintage was absolutely outstanding for Ontario wines. Well, two years prior to that – the 2005 vintage – Ontario made a name for itself with red wines specifically. The intensely hot summer was great for the red grapes allowing them to have concentrated fruit flavours and aromas. Consequently, you have a wine here that is super fruity, has great structure to it (i.e. does not taste “wimpy”) and more than holds up to any kind of heavy meal like roasts tend to be.

Chateau des Charmes 2007 St David’s Bench Gamay Droit
$16.95 per bottle
Gamay Noir is the lightest tasting of red wines available in North America and the Gamay Droit clone is unique to Chateau des Charmes winery. Gamay is typically a very fruit forward wine, not at all heavy, and pairs well with a wide variety of food dishes. The major flavours and aromas are cherry and berry fruit but there are the added components of spices, pepper and tannins making this a very interesting wine.

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc
$17.95 per bottle
Like the other Cabernet Franc mentioned above, this wine has some major fruit components. A combination of cherry, cedar and bell pepper aromas with flavours of red berry fruit, vanilla and oak, this wine definitely has all the necessary components to pair well with either turkey or ham. This wine has the ability to age for another 4-5 years if you so desire.

Remember, if you have already had your Thanksgiving dinner, try some of these wines out the next time you have a big family dinner. You will be amazed at how well red wines go with white meat. Cheers,
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