Mav Wine & Spirit Awards 2007

By / Mavericks / November 2nd, 2008 / 2

it is new, innovative or inventive, Tidings is always on the
look out for the food and wine maverick. Every November, we will
follow up our Maverick Chefs issue — published in October — with
the Mav Wine & Spirits Awards. Focusing on the best in
assemblage, the editors and tasters of Tidings laboured
perilously — we stained two tableclothes and a shirt — to
highlight the finest in a winemaker’s main d’oeuvre. At
the same time, we are featuring spirits that have adopted the truest
nature of its elements. In essence, we distil the critical facets of
wine and spirits and bring them to you, for the final analyse. Please
enjoy this year’s selections of Mavs.


Stratus Icewine Red 2006, Niagara ($39/200 ml)

Icewine is an assemblage of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and
Syrah. There is an interesting apple-juice quality to the
cherry/raspberry/plum profile. In the mouth, raisins, chocolate and
more berry fruit emerge, making it a perfect partner for a chocolate
mousse or any derivative of the cocoa bean. (ES)

vinous gestalt by Tod Stewart

One is
a lonely number. Sure, there’s a certain simplicity in the
singular, but most of life’s pleasures (Pinot Noir and single malt
scotch aside) are the result of some sort of mixture. Combining
elements adds complexity; complexity adds character. An instrument
that plays one note? A painting with one colour? A dish with a single
ingredient? All pretty boring (probably why they don’t exist).

the most gifted soloist eventually becomes tiring without the support
of the orchestra. Similarly, most winemakers no doubt get pretty
bored making wine from a single grape. Yes, exceptions — and some
pretty significant ones at that — are the result of a dogged
determination to extract complexity from a single varietal. But with
assemblage — the art of combining grape varieties (or more
often, combining wines made from separate grape varieties) — the
winemaker becomes a composer, combining aromatic and flavour notes to
craft the perfect vinous symphony.

“New World” producers took the single varietal madness to it
zenith, most European winemakers continued to make wine the “Old
World” way by combining an assortment of grapes to achieve the
ultimate in character, complexity and interest. The winemakers of
Bordeaux, for example, figured out eons ago that Cabernet Sauvignon
isn’t all that friendly on its own. Its personality is too dry,
austere and dusty. However, when a couple of giddier grapes from down
the block (Merlot and Cabernet Franc) are thrown into the cuveé,
Cabernet seems to relax a bit, its harshness diminished, but only
enough so as not to allow the others to make things sloppy.

is an art in itself, one that is practiced by oenophilic artists
around the world. Whether they are trumpeted as such (Sutter Home
Menage a Trois,
Caymus Conundrum, Cain Five, a multitude of Meritage)
or are simply content to follow long-established (and in many cases,
etched in law) practices, blends (let’s call ‘em what they are)
aren’t blah. In fact, it can often lead to the perfect vinous
gestalt — a realization that the whole is, in fact, better
than the sum of its parts.


Vodka, Japan ($50)

So easy
and smooth, you’d think it is made by the Japanese. Wait it is.
Produced using rice instead of the usual grains and potatoes, they
use a distillation process called Super-Allospas and natural spring
water from Fushimi, Kyoto to make it the umani stand out —
ultra-velvety with a medium finish. I recommend it straight up,
unless you want to sully it in a martini. (JF)

for the Derby

Reserve Distiller’s Select, Kentucky, USA ($50)

bourbon, sweet bourbon. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
There are few truer expressions of small-batch Kentucky bourbons that
this Woodford Reserve. Vanilla and cigar box on the nose with pepper
and spices pushing the mid-palate. A sweet nuttiness and burnt brown
sugar on the extra-long finish. It’s built to take on the toughest
winters. (JF)

School Mav

Cousiño-Macul Finis Terrae 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile ($29.95)

in Washington Dulles airport for 24 hours during a snowstorm this
winter, I decided to pass the time at the local wine bar. The barkeep
suggested that I try this superb offering from the fabulous 2003
vintage in Chile. Black in colour with loads of cassis, smoke,
blackberry, cocoa and herbs, it is medium-bodied with a concentrated
core of jammy black fruits on the palate. There is excellent length
and a solid backbone of tannin. Drink it over the next 5 years as it
offers immediate gratification. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and
40% Merlot. (ES)

à la Français

Château Suduiraut 2003, Sauternes, France ($50/half bottle)

is a super-intense, fat wine with low acid and fabulous complexity. A
perfume of honeysuckle, dried apricot, pineapple, crème
and spice permeates the senses when
enjoying this super-sweet offering. The finish just goes on and on.
Mostly Sémillon with some Sauvignon Blanc. Drink it over the
next 15 to 20 years. (ES)

Château Vieux Télégraphe Le Crau 2005,
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France ($60)

wine, from both an outstanding vintage and producer in CNP, is truly
stunning. It reminds me of the 1998, but with less gritty tannins.
There is a mass of red-berry fruits as well as spice, leather and
garrigue to be found
in the intense, full-throttle offering. The blend is approximately
two-thirds Grenache with the remainder being Syrah, Mourvèdre
and Cinsault. Drink until 2025. (ES)

Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse Lalande 2003, Pauillac,
France ($100)

can one not be seduced by this incredible wine? It starts with a
black–purple colour, follows with a sexy bouquet (a mix of dark
fruits, spice, minerals, chocolate-covered coffee bean and violets)
and finishes with a full-bodied yet soft texture. There is so much
density that you don’t feel the super-ripe tannins on the extensive
finale. Now to 2023. (ES)

Château Fombrauge 2003, Saint-Émilion, France ($55)

must admit a fondness for this Château, which is owned by
Bernard Magrez of Pape-Clément fame. My introduction to the
wines of Fombrauge occurred four years ago when I visited the Château
for the first time. With managing director Ugo Arguti, I tasted all
the vintages from 1998 to 2002. Recently I had the chance to taste
the impressive 2003. The wine is black as night and just fills the
mouth with a whole whack of liquorice, cinnamon, plums, blackberries,
chocolate and cherries. The finish is long with a good dose of
alcohol (14.5%) and is backed up with enough tannin to take 15 to 20
years. This is a house to acquaint yourself with, as the quality is
high, while prices are still reasonable. (ES)


Hidden Bench Vineyards La Brunante 2005, Niagara ($70)

Harald Thiel opened Ontario’s newest super-premium earlier this
year. Of all his wines, this dead ringer for a top-notch
Saint-Émilion is the most impressive; a blend of 60% Merlot,
20 % Malbec, 18.4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.6% Cabernet Franc that
spent 16 months in new Tronçais
wood. This treatment has given the wine a smoky/roasted-coffee-bean
quality that melds perfectly with the plum, cocoa, cherry and black
pepper. Superb length. Now to 2012. (ES)


Hillebrand Winery Trius White 2006, Niagara ($18.95)

is the first vintage of Trius White, a wine that has been created as
a companion for the long-established red version. It is a full-bodied
cocktail of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and
Chardonnay. It flaunts peach, passion fruit, spice, mineral, citrus
and honey. Excellent length. Try with macadamia-encrusted tuna with a
tropical fruit–ginger salsa accented with lime. (ES)

Home Mavs

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery Meritage 2005, Niagara ($24)

is a mélange of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet
Franc and 14% Merlot. The medium cherry colour leads the way to a
bouquet of blackberries, plum, smoky chocolate and herbs.
Medium-to-full body with firm tannins and very good length. Drink
over the next 4 to 6 years. (ES)

Thirty Bench Wine Makers Thirty Bench Red 2005, Niagara ($22)

blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot
possesses a medium-to-dark cherry colour and a rich bouquet of
blackcurrants, cherries, leather, plums, liquorice and herbs. In the
mouth, cocoa, plums and spice linger as the wine finishes with dusty
tannins. Made for pot roast or roasted top sirloin. Drink over the
next 4 to 5 years. (ES)

Gaspereau Vineyards Vitis 2005/2006, Nova Scotia ($21.99)

blend of three red varieties, combining grapes from two vintages,
proffers an interestingly complex bouquet with dark, developed fleshy
fruit, spice and green-herbal overtone. Sweet red cherry, plum,
raspberry and bitter-cherry flavours are mellowed by smooth chocolate
and moderate tannins. Long, well-integrated fruit, sweet spice and a
touch of milk chocolate on the finish. (SW)

Sumac Ridge Black Sage Vineyard Meritage 2004, Okanagan ($34)

with ripe, rich black cherry, coffee, herb, currant, cedar and dark
chocolate, supported by firm, ripe tannins that, along with lively
acidity, give it structure and length. Cabernet
Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc. Should continue to develop over the
next couple of years. (GB)

Calamus Estate Winery Calamus Red 2005, Niagara ($15)

small winery in the backwoods of Jordan showed that it is playing in
the big leagues with its 2005 reds. This is an incredible value in
homegrown product and definite case purchase. More approachable than
the Calamus Meritage (another 88-pointer), it is a blend of 62%
Cabernet Franc and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon. It serves up a nose of
cassis, vanilla, spice, raspberry and tobacco. The palate is ripe
with notes of cocoa at the end. Now to 2011. (ES)

Hawthorne Mountain See Ya Later Ranch Pinot 3 2005, Okanagan ($24)

Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Pinot Noir blend. Ripe, round and generous
with a core of peach, nectarine and hazelnut, turning elegant and
polished, with a pretty floral aftertaste on the smooth, soft finish.

the wine and spirits were selected and tasted by Evan Saviolidis,
Gurvinder Bhatia, Jennifer Frears and Sean Wood. You can find the 2008 Mav Wine & Spirit Awards at Chapters and Indigo stores starting November 1st, 2008.


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