California Zinfandel shines in Winnipeg

Wine fest turns eye to Canada in 2017


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Another Winnipeg Wine Festival has come and gone, leaving me bedraggled from doing my regular daytime thing at the Free Press as well as attending one or two events per night every day last week (and the weekend).

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/05/2016 (2514 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Another Winnipeg Wine Festival has come and gone, leaving me bedraggled from doing my regular daytime thing at the Free Press as well as attending one or two events per night every day last week (and the weekend).

Judging by my chicken-scratch notes, I managed to sample at least 250 wines over the course of the week’s ancillary tastings as well as the Friday and Saturday public tastings. That’s around normal for me, which isn’t surprising seeing as the lineup of events was pretty much the same as last year.

Many of the wines I tried this year impressed me more than I thought they would. And while I can’t possibly mention everything that knocked my socks off in one column, for now, here are some reds I liked from this year’s ­— and next year’s — theme region.

Note: Some of the wines aren’t readily available in Manitoba. Anything brought in for the fest still kicking around should be available at the Grant Park Liquor Mart while supplies last.

 California stars

The April 27 theme-region tasting at Assiniboine Park’s Qualico Family Centre featured a handful of Napa Valley and Sonoma County reds and whites, but the prominent grape and region, respectively, was Zinfandel from the state’s Lodi region. The Lodi Zins I tried both here and at the main public tastings showed very well, and were among the most popular wines at the festival.

I like hearing what other people are liking at the public tasting, and every single time I asked what people had tried and liked, one winery came up: Lodi’s Klinker Brick. Its regularly available 2012 Old Vines Zinfandel ($33.80) offers powerful raspberry, white pepper, raisin and licorice notes, while the festival-only 2013 Farrah Syrah ($29.17) offered powerful cherry, earth and herbal notes with well-integrated tannins.  

In my wine festival pre-show column, I mentioned waiting for Ravenswood 2014 Old Vines Zinfandel (Lodi, $25.99), and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a big, bold red with licorice, raisin, blackberry, anise and tarry notes that’s solid for the price (it’s regularly available at stores).

The other category that surprised me in the California region was Pinot Noir. At the public tasting, I sampled three consecutive Pinots — all from different regions — that were stellar.

The La Crema 2013 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, $36.89), Ironstone 2014 Pinot Noir (Lodi, $18.49) and Liberty School 2012 Pinot Noir (Central Coast, $24.95) all tasted beautifully, offering typical Pinot flavours of cherry, earth, spice, raspberry, cola and the like, with varying degrees of modest oak. Only the La Crema is available regularly in Manitoba; if you’re gun-shy about the price it is also available in half-bottles for $16.99.


 The Canadians are coming

At the April 29 industry breakfast, it was announced next year’s Winnipeg Wine Festival theme region will be wines of Canada; this will be the second time wines from our backyard will be in the spotlight at the festival.

Manitoba is in a unique position in this country when it comes to wine — it gets nearly the same number of B.C. wines as those from Ontario. Manitoba is right in the middle geographically, and the last time Canadian producers attended the Winnipeg fest as the theme region it was fascinating to see and hear them interact with each other — often for the first time.

It was a good reminder that this a very large country and the two main wine-producing regions are thousands of kilometres apart. It’s also reflective of the fact there’s not a rich history of Okanagan (B.C.) and Niagara (Ont.) producers working together to create a cohesive Canadian wine identity to foster both at home and abroad.

Hopefully, that will change.

One B.C. producer whose whole range of wines showed particularly well this year was Poplar Grove Winery (Okanagan Valley). I especially liked its 2012 Cabernet Franc, a single-vineyard red that offers cassis, anise and light herbal flavours as well as some vanilla and spice from 21 months’ barrel aging. This one’s not regularly available in Manitoba but is available through the winery’s website if you become a member of its wine club.

Oh, and while we’re talking about next year’s fest and Canadian wine, here’s hoping we see some Nova Scotia producers come to town for the big show. There are some absolutely brilliant wines coming from the East Coast — especially the white and sparkling wines — and it would be stellar to see them featured here.

I’ve got plenty more highlights to tackle in the next little while — stay tuned.

uncorked@mts.netTwitter: @bensigurdson 


Updated on Friday, May 6, 2016 1:29 PM CDT: Corrects name of winery

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