A #Twasting we will go

Last weekend I joined a group for a tasting at family-run Niagara-on-the-Lake winery Chateau Des Charmes, organized Twitter by Director of marketing Michèle Bosc.

A 10 minute drive from downtown St. Catharines, the Château sits on land with historic ties to grape growing and wine. The Château was opened in May 1994 and was immediately hailed as an agri-tourism landmark.

The tasting began with a flute of 2006 Rosé Sparkling Wine, Estate Bottled. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that were harvested in September 2006, the wine is made in the classic Méthode Traditionnelle. The traditional method is similar to the process used in the Champagne region of France to produce champagne. This particular wine has been bottle fermented and aged with yeast (to learn more about this method go to Wikipedia – it’s interesting).  The wine looks beautiful: Pink and bubbly, with bubbles that tingle the tongue rather than bite it. This is advantageous to me because carbonation is one of the types of stimuli that I’m hypersensitive to. (I’ve never been able to drink soft drinks. When I was a child the bubbles hurt.)

This wine retails at $28.95.

The 2008 Sauvignon Gris, Estate Bottled, retails at $19.95. It has a fresh scent with a hint of banana. On its own, the flavour is subtle. With Bleu Bénédictin cheese, the flavours come alive.

While these two didn’t wow me, I was more impressed with the final three, all reds:

The 2007 Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir has a burgundy hue and a gorgeous scent; sweet and smokey with honey. The taste is smooth with berry and vanilla notes. With St. Honore cheese it’s mild and buttery.
It retails at $35.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark purple, smells of smoke and pepper and is full bodied. It’s aged in oak barrels for one year.  It had been decanted 3 hours when it was poured for us.
Retail price: $25.95.

The final wine, my favourite, is also the most expensive at $40 a bottle. 2007 Equuleus (Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Cabernet Franc (25%) and Merlot (25%). The blend is aged for one year in French Tronçais and Allier oak barrels. It smells of smoke and caramel and tastes of honey, caramel and warming spices that I think I identify with nutmeg and cinnamon. It too had been decanted 3 hours prior.

About the name: “Equuleus is the name of the “Little Horse” constellation, best seen when it rises in the night sky at harvest time every September. This equine symbol celebrates Château des Charmes’ founder Paul Bosc’s passion for Egyptian Arabian horses which are stabled at the Paul Bosc Estate, the family’s home vineyard.” (Source: Chateau Des Charmes website)

The wines were accompanied by a cheese tray: A sheep cheese from Montforte Dairy in Ontario that was mild and smokey; Grey Owl from Fromagerie Le Détour in Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Quebec; with the aforementioned Bleu Bénédictin and St. Honore, also from Quebec.

We managed a supplemental trip up to Megalomaniac Wine in Vineland, Ontario and quickly tried a few before closing time. The few were good, but I’d abandoned note taking and instead focused on the view and the atmosphere. At Megalomaniac the tasting is conducted next to big, steel drums of fermenting wine in a cavernous room. Among the labels hanging off the taps of the drums were “08 Reisling”, “06 Pinot Noir”, and “2009 cab sauv”. The winery is up on a hill with this view:

A wedding had just concluded when we arrived. Photos were still being taken. A little girl in a flower girl’s dress was fighting with a little boy her age in the way that child siblings do.

Many people in our group left laden with wine.

If you’re looking for a day trip without a car, Chateau Des Charmes is easy to get to: Sarah of Toronto Tasting Notes and I took a bus from Toronto to St. Catharines and a 10 minute cab ride to the winery. Megalomanic is farther out of the way, near Tawse, Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery, Stoney Ridge Estate Winery and others. With a couple of hours to spend before the scheduled arrival of our bus home, we wandered downtown St. Catharines and had a nice dinner. The bus station in St. Catharines turned most of the lights out for Earth Hour.

It was a beautiful day, and I apologize to those who I might have sniped at, sneered at or scowled at during our winery visits. You know those days when you’re just feeling irritated and can’t seem to snap out of it? I was having one of those.  Crankiness is like a toddler; a toddler that I couldn’t subdue with wine (or I didn’t drink enough), but dinner seemed to quiet the sniveling.

Here are some more photos (and some duplicates, because WordPress is like that):

Also see what Food with Legs said about the Chateau Des Charmes tasting.

Eat well, be well.

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3 Responses to “A #Twasting we will go”

  1. sd
    April 6, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Excellent post Andrea!.

  2. April 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Thanks, Suresh!

  3. February 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

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