Archives for the month of: July, 2012

Featured on the Spin Sip page of VINES‘ latest edition is a food and wine pairing that will get any sushi lover’s heart fluttering. David Gelb’s documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is the only way most will ever experience Jiro Ono’s celebrated restaurant Sukiyabashi. Located in a Tokyo subway station, the 10-seat establishment has been awarded a Michelin three-star review and is the destination for sushi lovers from around the world. Enjoy with the attractive and refreshing Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2010 RieslingCoonawarra, Australia $17.95 (528216)

The new issue of VINES includes a feature about talented Niagara winemakers who are working outside of the established norm. They don’t own vineyards. They don’t own wineries. But they have figured out ways to follow their passion and produce stellar Ontario wines. One of the four, Charles Baker Wines, only makes Riesling. Here is an excerpt of the article, explaining how Baker is making it work.


Baker’s Choice: Charles Baker produces two distinctive Rieslings from two contracted growers in Niagara.

“There is a big difference between myself and the other three being featured (in the article),” Charles Baker said on a break from our photo shoot. “They are bona fide winemakers… I am enabling these vineyards to be put into bottle. I am the one facilitating the introduction of somebody’s vineyard to a bottle and, after that, to somebody’s glass.”

All four of them share the same desire to find new ways of putting Niagara into a bottle, he added. Baker has just bottled the seventh vintage of the Picone Vineyard Riesling. Two years ago, he added a second site to his portfolio – the Ivan Vineyard, located near Tawse Winery in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation.

“The ambition is to capture Riesling from different vineyards from across the peninsula,” Baker says.

“I only work in Niagara. I have to work within the parameters of my daily life. I have to work within the building where I am employed at Stratus, who are amazingly generous to allow me to do this. But I am not stopping it at two vineyards. The idea is to look for different expressions from different appellations.”

Baker doesn’t have a timeline for expanding his network of superior Riesling sites. He hopes that serendipity will play a role. “I think in time I will meet other grape growers who will want to work in the same vein.”

Charles Baker Wines 2010 Picone Vineyard Riesling Vinemount Ridge $35 The warmth of Niagara’s 2010 vintage is evident in this ripe, concentrated Riesling that still manages to showcase the expressive mineral, floral and savoury notes common to the Picone Vineyard. Ripe citrus and a hint of honey on the palate are nicely balanced by the wine’s natural acidity and a slightly minty/herbal note that lingers on the finish. The wine comes across as dry, which is a significant departure from the 2009 release, but is merely a reaction to the weather conditions of the growing season. 440 cases.


Sunday, Sunday

Good Times: A chilled bottle of Riesling takes centre stage at Sunday dinner. Could life be any sweeter?

News reports that Australia is losing its thirst for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has local experts hoping that there is a growing appetite for other white varieties, especially the steely, rapier-sharp style of Riesling popular Down Under.

“Riesling is a lot more serious than Sauvignon Blanc but it does take some appreciation,” Julian Alcorso, managing director of Winemaking Tasmania, told The Mercury.

“Hopefully this is a graduation process.

“You can put a Sauvignon Blanc in the cellar for 12 months and you’d want to throw it out but a good Riesling will last forever.”

Mission Control: Winemaker John Simes lets the purity of the fruit shine in the Mission Hill Family Estate 2011 Reserve Riesling

We consider Riesling a pure and honest grape, which can offer layers of complexity and finesse. It can benefit from aging, neutral oak barrels, or bubbles, but it doesn’t require any of these practices to make a great wine. Sometimes letting the grapes take their own course is the best course of action.

Mission Hill Family Estate 2011 Reserve Riesling ($19.99, is a well-crafted refreshing wine that is distinctly shows the grape’s personality without all the bells and whistles. Stone fruit, tangerine and melon aromas greet you on the nose, with green apple notes bobbing along just behind. The palate offers flavours of cantaloupe, honey and mineral notes. Racy acidity balances well with hints of residual sugar and a long finish give the mineral notes it’s time to shine.

Winemakers who are lucky enough to receive healthy and clean Riesling grapes often think of one thing: don’t change anything and keep it healthy and clean. The grapes are trying to express where they came from and what they’ve been through, so let them tell their story. Sometimes it’s best not to mess with a good thing.


Cook Like a Pro: Grilled peaches and pork chops sing with Riesling

In honour of its 25th anniversary last year, Cave Spring Cellars called upon talented Canadian chefs to share their favourite Riesling-friendly recipes. Chef Peter George, from 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, answered with Willow Grove Farm’s Pork Chop with Cave Spring Cellars Grilled Riesling Poached. As George explains, “Riesling is my favourite way to start a meal; its light sweetness and exotic flavours excite my palate. I always have a few bottles.”

4             Willow Grove Farms pork rack chops
salt, pepper and fresh rosemary
4             Niagara free stone peaches
2 cups   Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Niagara Peninsula
½ cup   sugar
1             vanilla bean, split lengthwise
extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the peaches. Boil for one minute; remove the peaches to an ice water bath to cool. Peel the skin from the peaches and cut in half removing the peach stone. Combine the Riesling, sugar and vanilla and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the peach halves. Simmer the peach halves for 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and allow the peaches to cool in the Riesling. Once cool, remove the peaches from the Riesling and reduce the peach cooking liquid to a glaze, about 1/5 of its original volume.

Season the pork chops with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and a little extra virgin olive oil. Grill the pork chops on the barbecue for 5 minutes per side. The last two minutes of cooking, grill the peach halves on the barbecue. Brush the pork chops with the Riesling reduction saving a little for the final platter.

Arrange the pork chops on a platter with the grilled peaches. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and a drizzle of the Cave Spring Cellars Riesling reduction. Enjoy!

Booster Club: Jancis Robinson singles out Riesling as the greatest white them of all

I think that Riesling is indisputably the greatest white wine grape in the world but many people think I am mad.

The problem I think, is that Riesling has so much character compared to Chardonnay, the other most obvious candidate for greatest white wine grape. Whereas Chardonnay in most cases presents the winemaker with an almost blank canvas on which to paint the traces of his techniques and processes, Riesling has its own very distinctive character, which varies immensely and excitingly according to exactly where it is grown. Riesling responds rather badly to winemaking tricks. It is happiest when it is just fermented as simply as possible and the pure fermented juice bottled with minimal resort to oak, malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and so on.

Jancis Robinson

Time and a Bottle: Old vines and a warm vintage have influenced the style of wine that the Tawse 2005 Riesling has become

As you stroll through the liquor store, you’ll often see shelf talkers and signs that suggest how long you can cellar a given wine. Every wine has a different suggested amount of time to age, and that will depend on its varietal, vintage, producer and style. But what do we gain from storing our bottles away besides dust?

Aromas and flavours of wine evolve with time — a wine’s tastes and smells transform into a more mature version of itself. That doesn’t mean better necessarily, it just means different.

As the VINES team has already discussed, Riesling has great aging potential. Young bottles tend to be fruity with fresh peach or Granny Smith apple. With time, these flavours may evolve into a sophisticated baked apple pie or peach cobbler. Both young and aged Rieslings are delicious treats to savour, but still very different, like apples and oranges, or in this case, apples and peaches.

Buying multiple bottles of your favourite Riesling and opening one every couple of years is a great way to see how a wine develops and how your preferences and desirable food pairings change with the bottle. Sometimes it’s nice to explore the advantages of aging.

Semi Tough: Vineland Estates 1998 Semi Dry Riesling is a great example of an affordable Riesling that has the capacity to age

When it comes to collecting, there’s always the age old question: “How long should I hold onto this wine?” Wine lovers are typically concerned about aging red wines. Most feel that white wines, on the other hand, should be purchased and consumed as needed.

We love fresh and fruity whites so much that we forget that they, too, have aging potential. Our patience will be rewarded, especially when it comes to Riesling.

Riesling is ideal for aging because it is a high acid grape varietal and acid is a preservative. This generally allows Rieslings to develop in bottle better than any low acid grapes such as Merlot.

Our favourite grape has another secret weapon. It’s been widely discussed in recent We Heart Riesling posts that Riesling can be made in many different styles, including sweet.  Since sugar also acts as a preservative, sweet Rieslings can generally age longer than dry ones, although some high quality, dry examples have been known to age gracefully for more than a century.

Now that you know why Riesling is a great candidate for aging, the next time you shop, grab a couple of bottles, hide them in your cellar and somehow manage to convince yourself to forget that they exist. Odds are good, your future self will thank you.


Weis Man: Riesling superstar Nik Weis has made his family winery in the Mosel, St. Urbans-Hof, into one of Germany’s top estates

Leafing through pages from our archives, we uncovered a piece from our 2002 White Issue, when we spoke to Nik Weis, owner and winemaker of Weingut St. Urbans-Hof, about his philosophy.

[Riesling] is something that is different. It has the most wine character of all of the grapes in the world because it is fruity and it goes with a lot of food… Some wines stay the same, but Riesling changes so dramatically and it also changes the food. It’s a real adventure. Nik Weis, Owner & Winemaker, St. Urbans-Hof