Well dear reader, first and foremost: a very Happy New Year! I truly hope you had a blessed holiday and New Year, filled with good friends, good family, and good wine and beer (and if it was spent with bad friends and bad family, then really REALLY GOOD wine and beer).

We start off things here on Matt's Wine Not! for MMX (because saying things the Roman way is ultra cool) by talking about something...from last year, something that's not run of the mill.

So, you won't be getting my normal witty wine reviews, but rather a mix of commentary, information, and sure, a few rather brief reviews instead. Sit back, read, and enjoy.

A long time ago, in a galaxy, far far away...my dear lady wife and I were invited by a local blogger named Sean to a small, cozy wine and cheese event sponsored by one of Ontario's premier wineries, Inniskillin.

Located at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Inniskillin has operated since 1974, and was the first vineyard to have been granted a license since 1929 (quite the accomplishment). The winery has gone on to produce award winning wines, and whose Ice Wine - perhaps their most famous product - was recently served to luminaries at the Nobel Prize dinner; what a blast! (A blast, because, of course, the Nobel Prize is named after Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite...yeah.)

One must not overlook however our gracious host for the evening, a generous lady by the name of Nancy, who operates a very fine cheese shop, and provided the setting and multitude of cheeses for the evening's festivities. They were, indeed, delicious, and complimented some of the wines we sampled very nicely (but don't be looking for wine and cheese pairings here, that's utterly out of my league!). Our cheese and cracker spread was beautiful and simply mouth-watering...

Say cheese!

Cheeses featured that evening included (from left to right): *drum roll Anton*
  • Blackburn, from Québec;
  • Sao Jorge, from Portugal;
  • Roaring Forties Blue, from Australia;
  • Piave, from Italy;
  • Ile-Aux-Grues 2 Year Old Cheddar, from Québec;
  • Chevre Noir, from Québec.

Needless to say I was quite full and satisfied after the night's completion (and frankly that effing cracker with nuts and cranberry was effing spectacular).

On to the wine, or details about it, rather!! (It's coming, don't worry.)

Our evening was hosted by a sommelier (wine-pert) from Inniskillin (whose name escapes me...I really enjoyed the wine that night), who provided a great deal of insight into the wines we had the privilege to sample. We were even further privileged to discover that some of the wines had not even been distributed to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario yet, so talk about exclusive!

That night we sampled in total four wines from Inniskillin, from 2007 and 2008. The year 2007 was an excellent year for wine growing in the Niagara region, with a long, dry, and hot summer season that helped the grapes develop a full flavour. Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc are two of the varieties that grow well in Niagara, and they composed two of the wines we tried, the other two being Chardonnay and Riesling.

Now onto the actual wines!

1). Inniskillin Riesling 2008 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 12% Alcohol/Vol.

First up was Inniskillin's Two Vineyard Riesling, meaning that the grapes used to craft this wine were taken from two separate vineyards...cool!

A light pale yellow hue, it was a light and bright, fragrant wine, with a grapefruit, and generally fruity nose. Rieslings being traditionally on the sweet end I believe, this one wasn't over-the-top on sweetness, and was not overly dry either, providing a nice balance in this light to medium bodied drink. It had a refreshing sourness towards the end and in its aftertaste, making this a wonderful choice for a spring or summer day. Our sommelier recommended pairing this with Thai or Indian foods (perhaps to take the edge off the spice?) and squash soup - I guess the man knows best!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this wine, a definite winner.

***1/4 out of 4

2). Inniskillin Chardonnay 2008 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 13.5% Alcohol/Vol.

I am, for whatever reason, pictureless on this wine, but it too was quite enjoyable, although I am admittedly not as big a fan of Chardonnay as other white varietals.

This Three Vineyard white was also a pale yellow in appearance, but with a darker, deeper nose, whose taste featured some "buttery" full notes, and with a richer flavour than the Riesling. Medium bodied, this wine did sport some sourness and acidity, and even "oakiness" (I'm just full of made-up words) from the barrels. Despite its full bodied alcohol content, this wine was still very drinkable and went down nicely. The sommelier noted pairing with lobster, seafood in general, turkey, and even popcorn with butter! Why the hell not, right, might make the movie better!

*** out of 4

3). Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2007 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 13% Alcohol/Vol.

The third wine at bat that night was the so called "heart break grape" Pinot Noir wine (entitled as such because it's a real pain in the ass to grow this variety apparently, and pricey to do so). This wine, also produced from grapes from Three Vineyards, produced a berry nose, of the rasp and straw variety, and was a deep crimsony-purply-cherry colour.

This Pinot featured a medium body with a slight spicy boot, with a definite dryness one could feel on the tongue. The aftertaste kept the berry taste about it. Suggestions to pair it with pork and poultry dishes were made.

I'm not the ultimate Pinot fan as is, but this was still a good drink, but not my favourite of the night.

**3/4 out of 4

4). Inniskillin Cabernet Franc 2007 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 13.5% Alcohol/Vol.

The main event of the evening was the delicious Cabernet Franc, which truly showed the strength of the 2007 season in Niagara. A deep luscious red colour, the Cab Franc gave off a cherry nose coupled with raspberries. Tasting notes presented included blackberry with hints of chocolate, and had a little zing, and was a smoothish yet medium bodied wine; truly delicious.

***1/4 out of 4

So! There you have it! It was an enjoyable evening despite being over my head often times but one again cannot forget the graciousness of the person who invited us, the cheese shop lady, and the good people at Inniskillin for the lesson, and of course, the beautiful wines.

I repeat what I said in a previous post: go out there and support your local wineries, whatever part of the world you're in, you'll be doing the economy, and your local growers, a big favour.

And of course, continue to enjoy your wine responsibly, and have fun doing so, whether you're like me, who wants to keep it simple, or if you truly want to delve into the incredibly diverse and deep world that is vino.


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