Serendipity was smiling on me and decided it was time, yet again, to widen my horizon on the subject of Canadian wine. It sent Torontonian Arlene Stein my way, awesome impresario of the Toronto Terroir event, with some Ontario cheese – and a box of wine! I had heard about the winemaker Charles Baker, but never tasted his wines. Charles had generously loaded Arlene with three vintages from two different vineyards.
And no, just in case any of you are even thinking about mentioning the I-word: all these wines tasted dry to just off-dry, and there is loads of this style of Riesling produced in Niagara, besides the ice wine (some of it admittedly very good, think Inniskillin) for which the region still seems mostly known… The most famous Riesling name in Niagara is Cave Spring (where Charles used to work), them of the beautiful mandarine aromas transformed into Riesling wine.
So, bottles went into fridge straight away and into glass one excited evening not too much later. I mean, my ex-buddy Stuart Pigott says in his Riesling book: “All of this (how Charles makes wine from other people’s grapes) would just be a good story if it weren’t for the remarkable quality and striking style … the subtlety and elegance. In spite of all the differences between the vintages, warm and cool, dry and wet, floral and herbal notes run through these wines, and there’s something savory in the aftertaste.” Indeed, well spoken. The 2014 Stratus Twenty Miles Bench Ivan Vineyard is from very young vines, and it shows a little, but the 2013 and above all the 2012 Vinemount Ridge Picone Vineyard, are total beauties.
It was with great difficulty that I refrained from emptying them in one go, so that I could check on their aging potential. Five days later, and they were still radiant!
Obviously, cheese had to be part of the game. The 2012 Picone loved a 17 months old Beaufort, and felt much at home with the sweet, alpine style Gunn’s 5 Brothers from the Cheese Boutique in Toronto. Best of all though: Mothais sur feuille, a young-ish, fresh-ish goat cheese made from raw milk from the Charente region in western France, aged on a chestnut leaf. Acidity, sweetness, weightlessness – it was a perfect fit and true love. Thank you, Arlene, Charles and my old friend, serendipity.
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