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More on the Lehmanns

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I had meant to post a follow-up to my entry re: lunching with Peter and Margaret Lehmann last week, but figured I'd hold off, as the Barossa couple made a quick stop in Winnipeg on Tuesday, and I had a chance to catch up with them after they had spent the better part of two weeks travelling across Western Canada (they're in Toronto today, where earlier they replicated the seven decade tasting I attended in Vancouver).

Both seemed in high spirits despite the wear and tear such a trip might have on a couple in their early eighties, and showed much enthusiasm about their time in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I was lucky enough to be seated next to Margaret Lehmann at a dinner at Earls Main on Tuesday night, and she told me all about their time in Banff as well as visiting relatives in Edmonton. Guests included members of the innovative Earls Wine Club that had won spots to the event. 

Dinner featured many local ingredients - bison, pickerel, duck and more - and was presented once again in a family-style, pass-the-plate format that worked quite well. The wines showed very well too, and both Peter and Margaret were able to get around and talk to most of the guests as well as say a few words to the group over a modest PA system. 

Norman Gladstone of International Cellars, the company that represents Peter Lehmann wines in Western Canada, said a few words about the couple, calling Peter a "reluctant winemaker" who went into business for himself after he refused the task of telling grape growers that Saltram (the company for whom he worked in the 1970s) wouldn't be buying their fruit. He took it upon himself to make wines from those grapes, and the rest is history. Gladstone referred to Peter as "The Baron of Barossa", an honest man making honest wine. 

Peter then got up to speak, a humble but hilarious orator who described himself as being coaxed back to Canada by Norman despite "thinking of taking it more quietly." He had apparently attempted a joke on his last visit to Winnipeg in 2003 that had bombed as a result of referencing "Main and Portage" rather than "Portage and Main". This time he was thoughtful yet feisty. "The true connoisseur is the person who drinks what he likes," he mused. "But please - I've got five children and ten grandchildren - I need your help," he noted to laughter and applause.

Margaret also talked to me in great detail about her involvement in leading a group lobbying against the opening of a McDonalds in Nuriootpa, the town in the Barossa where the Lehmanns live. The group had recently won an injunction against McDonalds on a technicality, but Margaret was thrilled that the giant fast food chain wouldn't be in her backyard - at least for the time being.

At the end of a night of excellent wine and fabulous food, the couple were given Winnipeg Jets jerseys, which Margaret originally thought was our football team (I corrected her, what with Winnipeg Blue Bomber Doug Brown also in attendance).

Anyway, here are my notes on some of the wines tasted at the dinner:

Peter Lehmann 2009 Barossa Blonde (around $17, available at Banville and Jones)

Ripe peach, lemon and honey on the nose. Light-bodied and crisp, with modest acidity and a hint of sweetness that worked very well with the mango prawn rolls with which it was served. 88/100

Peter Lehmann 2007 The Futures Shiraz ($29.99, available at Liquor Marts and beyond)

Very dark in colour. On the nose, notes of spice, white pepper, vanilla, and ripe black cherry. A full-bodied red, the Futures brings those big black cherry flavours on the palate, as well as black pepper, tomato, mocha and cedar notes. There's some light acidity and medium tannin, suggesting some decanting or cellaring (three to five years in the case of the latter) might be helpful. Worked brilliantly with the braised bison served with seasonal root vegetables. 92/100

Peter Lehmann 2005 Mentor Cabernet Sauvignon ($44.98, available at Liquor Marts and beyond)

Classic Cabernet notes come through on the nose - mint, anise, ash, and cassis - as well as a dollop of black cherry. The savoury anise notes permeate on the palate as well, with white pepper and spice notes working wonders with blackcurrant and blackberry flavours. It's juicy, yet the tannin keeps this wine from feeling overly flabby or burdened with cloying fruit. Very well-balanced - drink now or hold for five years. 92/100

Either of the two events would have been an absolute privilege to attend, and I was thrilled to have been lucky enough to attend both.

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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