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Cabernet Franc

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Red, Red Wines for Winter

February 20, 2017
Chateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc

It’s been a red, red wine season at my place with big, spicy reds sounding pretty perfect on cold winter nights. I’ve been lucky to have a few sample bottles on hand that ensured there was always something new to try. Here are a few of my recent favourites.

Southbrook 2015 Triomphe Pinot NoirChateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Franc is a grape that Ontario does extremely well and this 2015 from Niagara’s Chateau des Charmes is an excellent example. We cracked this one open for Shawn’s birthday and it was bursting with big, bold flavours. Lots of ripe red fruit, well-balanced spice and a hint of black pepper on the finish. This was one of the best Ontario wines I’ve had in the last few months. I highly recommend.

Southbrook Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir – With cherry, raspberry, plum, vanilla and root beer on the nose and lots of red fruit on the palate, this Niagara sipper has a longish finish with lots of fruit. A pleasant and very drinkable wine from one of Ontario’s most reliable wineries.

Louis M. Martini 2014 Cabernet SauvignonLouis M. Martini 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is available for just a little while longer at the LCBO and it’s well worth seeking out. A value-priced California Cab Sauv, this has smoked meat, cassis and big red berries on the nose. The palate is smoky and earth with nice fruit on the finish. A nice wine to pair with dinner.

What do you have in your glass this month? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social.

*These three wines were samples–opinions are most definitely my own.

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The Best Wines I Tried in September

October 3, 2016
Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Cabernet Franc is an organic wine from the Niagara region.

It’s officially autumn! I love this time of year so much and I’ve been signing up for races and yoga classes to celebrate the start of a new season. Even though I’m well past school age, September always seems like a great time for fresh starts and heathy changes.

And I’ve had lots of great wine in my glass this month to share with you! Shawn and I have been traveling and tasting and having so much fun on our wine-infused adventures. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you in the weeks and months to come. But up first, a few of my favourite sips from the past few weeks.

Southbrook Vineyards 2013 Triomphe Cabernet Franc – I am a big fan of Southbrook wines and of Ontario Cabernet Franc in general, so I was pleased when this sample arrived.  And as I inhaled the aroma of this Ontario red, it felt like fall in a glass – black and roasted pepper, blackberry and wet earth on the nose and lots of earthy, spicy goodness on the palate (blackberry, strawberry, a bit of chili pepper). Even better, it’s organic, which is something Southbrook takes very seriously. I had this with a dish of wild rice and beans that Shawn made for me and it was a perfect mix of earthy flavours on a cold, rainy evening.  I had spent my day taking an html and CSS course at Camp Tech (which I highly recommend) and let me tell you, a glass of this wine with a big bowl of rice and beans and getting sucked into part four of the excellent ESPN documentary on O.J. Simpson made for a pretty perfect way to end the day.

Seriously Cool Red from Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara, Ontario.Southbrook Vineyards Seriously Cool Red Blend – The Seriously Cool series is more of an entry-level wine for Southbrook, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. With its colourful and memorable label, it’s hard not to want to pick up a bottle. With dark chocolate, smoked meat and plum on the nose and black cherry and roasted plums on the palate, this is a really good food wine. Shawn and I cracked this bottle on a Monday evening, after we returned home from an adventure in Norfolk County (we’ll talk more about that another time). To celebrate the last day of our longer weekend, he made grilled cheese sandwiches with turkey bacon and we enjoyed an evening of comfort food and a marathon session of The Walking Dead (we’re trying to get caught up before the new season starts). This wine paired quite nicely with vacation day binge watching.

Burning Kiln Sparks sparkling wine is a lovely option from Norfolk County.Burning Kiln Vineyards – Sparks – There’s very little in life that I like more than a good sparkling wine. It doesn’t have to be French Champagne (not that I’ll ever turn that down), but a well-made sparkling will always steal my heart. Such is the case with Burning Kiln’s Sparks, which is made with seven different grape varietals and has a little bit of biscuit on the nose, along with nice notes of lemon that follows through on the very crisp palate. It’s a pleasant, refreshing sparkler and it paired quite nicely with the perch tacos I enjoyed on the winery’s patio last weekend. Burning Kiln is on a beautiful piece of property in Norfolk County, a place that has seriously captured our hearts. We can’t wait to go back, and when we do I know that more of this sparkling will be enjoyed.

Levendi Winery 2015 Reserve Chardonnay – I was lucky to recently attend the Napa Valley tasting event in Toronto (more on that in another post soon) and there I discovered Levendi wines. Their lively and fresh Chardonnay was a stand-out for me with balanced acidity and pineapple, pear and apple notes. This is a very good example of a California Chardonnay that could work both with food or on its own. A nice sipper that I hope to have again soon. This one is available via agent in Ontario, but you can grab their Cabernet Sauvignon (also very good) at the LCBO for a limited time.

So what did you drink in September? Share what you tried and loved in the comments below or on social.

Coming up in October on the blog, we’ll continue to look at the wineries of Lake Erie North Shore and our German wine adventures and I’ll give you a deeper dive into two recent tastings I did this past month, which I wanted to dive into with more detail. And I may even share a few more personal posts about my recent wine foibles – I’m told they’re pretty funny!

*All wines tasted this month were either samples or tasted at events where Shawn and I were guests. And thank goodness for that because my wine budget is already completely out of control and running this blog is a very expensive hobby! Opinions remain, as always, our own.

Food & Wine

Excellent Ontario Cabernet Franc Options

September 22, 2015
CabFranc10-1

* This is a cross-post that also appears on Uncork Ontario’s 30 Days of Blogging Series – check it out for a deep dive into the Ontario wine scene.

It’s quiet at Archive Wine Bar on the afternoon of André Proulx’s recent Ontario Cabernet Franc tasting. Each of us seems slightly awed by the 47 bottles of Ontario Cabernet Franc lined up across the entire length of the bar – bottles sourced from wineries in almost every region in the province.

There is sipping, swirling and spitting, then furious note-taking as we try to capture thoughts on each wine. Are there hallmarks of the grape that are unique to the region? Does Ontario Cabernet Franc differ significantly from other Cab Franc’s we’ve tried from around the world?

Discussion happens in fits and starts – someone suggests we have to try a certain bottle, noses are turned up at another, I spill wine (of course I do), winemaker styles are compared, new wineries mentioned. It’s the sort of day made for wine geeks – a chance to really, truly explore one of the best grapes grown in this region, a grape that grows well in a cold-climate and produces some top notch bottles every year.

Bottles of Ontario Cabernet Franc wine

As a student of wine, this is an incredible opportunity and one I appreciated immensely. Cabernet Franc was the grape that pulled me into the Ontario wine scene, but I had never experienced the nuances of the wine in such a strong way before. This province is making some truly great wines right now and tasting side by side was the best way to learn about them.

Cabernet Franc is a wine that works best with food and I’d highly recommend any of the wines below to accompany your meal – especially something that goes well with the wines earthy notes. Steak, mushrooms, roasted chicken? All would work well, in my opinion.

Cave Springs 2013 Dolomite Cabernet Franc

So what wines made my heart sing and should send you straight to the winery to source a bottle? Here are a few of my favourites:

Cave Springs Cellars Dolomite 2013
– A fruit-forward nose with strawberry, cherry and a bit of green pepper. Ripe berries and spice on the palate. A long finish that left me wanting more.

Chateau des Charmes 2012 Cabernet Franc

Chateau des Charmes 2012 – This one elicited much conversation about how it punches well above its weight in terms of quality for price. A very well-made wine with raspberry notes on the nose and a palate pleasing peppery fruit finish. At $13.95 it’s an absolute steal.

Dean's List Cabernet Franc wine

Niagara College Teaching Winery 2012 Dean’s List – They make some pretty amazing wines at the Niagara Teaching Winery and this Dean’s List pick is a great example of some of the winemaking talent coming from the school. There’s some real heat on this one, good tannin and lots of cherry and raspberry notes. A reminder that I need to visit again soon.

Norman Hardie Unfiltered County Cabernet Franc wine

Norman Hardie Vineyards 2013 – One of two wines that we tasted blind, this had lots of smoked meat and red fruit on the nose, great acidity and a unique smokiness on the palate. Very different than the other wines I favoured, but very good. Best with food.

Pondview Estate Bella Terra Cabernet Franc wine

Pondview Estate Winery 2012 Bella Terra – My favourite of the day, I confess to drinking a glass (or two) of this with dinner that night. It held up just as well when I went back for another glass the next day. Raspberry, licorice, smoke and pepper on the nose, this has sweet, ripe fruit on the palate alongside earthy vegetal notes. Can I just write “nomnom” and hope you’ll get how much I liked this?

Southbrook 2013 Triomphe Cabernet Franc organic wine

Southbrook Vineyards 2013 Triomphe – Cherry, raspberry, smoke and earth combined on the nose and palate into a very enjoyable, eminently drinkable wine.

Southbrook 2012 Whimsy Cabernet Franc organic wine

Southbrook Vineyards 2012 Whimsy – Dark cherry, plum and anise on the nose, well-balanced body and palate-pleasing fruit. I’m really liking what Southbrook is doing with Cabernet Franc right now (evident since they’re the only winery with two bottles on the list this time).

Tawse 2013 Growers Blend Cabernet Franc wine

Tawse Estate Winery 2011 Grower’s Blend – Earthy nose with smoked meat, tar, vanilla and smoke. Ripe fruit with hints of vanilla on the finish. A very good wine now, an even better one in a few more years.

Vineland Estates Winery 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc wine


Vineland Estates Winery 2010 Reserve
– Smooth on the palate, good body, lots of ripe, red fruit and hints of pepper on the nose. Drinking well now, drinking better in five years.
What do you think of these choices? Do you have a favourite Ontario Cabernet Franc? How would it stand up side by side with other Ontario options?

Many thanks to André for organizing this amazing tasting experience – you can (and should) read André’s blog here.