About a month ago I was asked about the ageability dessert wines, specifically that of Icewine. Many dessert wines are famous for their ability to age. However, when it comes to Icewine Ive never had one more than a few years old. So I set out to find an answer. My guess would be that, since they have alcohol, sugar and acidity they should have no trouble going the distance. The real question is not will they age, but what will they be like when they do?
First, I checked The Oxford Companion to Wine and Sotheby’s Encyclopedia of Wine. Both had information about making Icewine and drinking window of 2-20 years, but nothing about what they become. Then I thought to check to see if what the critics are saying. The reviews are all for current vintages with a wide drinking window, but nothing about them once aged. I would have to find out for myself. So I made the drive (about 10 hours) to Canadas Niagara region. While there are many wineries to visit, I set my course for Inniskillin.
Arriving early gave some time to explore the grounds before the tour. I tried some of the dry table wines, sadly with the low production of these most are offered at the winery only. After some reds it was time to grab a bite to eat. This simple meal was the best of my whole trip; a mixed green salad with grilled Brie and bacon cured in Icewine paired with the Brae Burn Vineyard Viognier, which was my favorite of the dry wines. It would be worth the trip to enjoy this again.
The tour began with an explanation of their expectations for 2010. As other wineries in the area would confirm, there was an unusual stretch of heat early in the growing season which puts the grapes about 2-3weeks ahead of schedule in ripeness. As long as there arent any hail storms or late season rains, 2010 has the potential for a very large, very ripe crop; possibly the regions best year ever. Our host also went over the history and many milestones of the winery. Its a great story of travel, love, excitement and anticipation.
At the end of the tour I mentioned my interest in aged Icewine. The cellars library holds bottles going back to 1986 and that they are tasted periodically to check in on them. The 84s and 85s recently lost their life and are mere collector items rather than bottles you would actually want to drink. It was time to find out. I paid my tasting fees and heres the line up:
2006 Riesling $69.99 Binnys Price 375mL bottle
Deep yellow color. Smells more like apricots than apricots do. A very rich wine up front, with marmalade fruit flavors and great acidity that sneaks up on the end.
2007 Vidal $49.99 Binnys Price 375mL bottle
Pale straw color. Very clean and even refreshing if you can believe that for an Icewine. Distinct flavors of lemon and marzipan. My 2nd favorite.
2006 Vidal Oak Aged $89.99 375mL bottle, winery only
Golden amber color. The scent of fresh biscuits and honey is mirrored on the palate. This is much more viscous and warming. The fruit aspect richer like pecan pie filling.
2006 Cabernet Franc $89.99 Binnys Price 375mL bottle
Red color with auburn tones. Very aromatic with candied plums. On the palate it is much lighter than expected and tastes like strawberries, rhubarb and ultra ripe red plums. Another surprise comes when it finishes as clean as it does.
1998 Riesling $200, 375mL bottle, winery only
Medium dark gold color. Smells like those tan colored caramel squares I got while trick-or-treating as a kid. Tastes of caramel-covered fruit cake, dried apricots and spiced oranges.
1986 Vidal $350, 375mL bottle, winery only
Darker caramel color. Slightly musty and oxidative sweet sherry scents. The peach flavors are slightly stewed, and the acid is lively but prickly in the front of the palate.
1996 Vidal Oak Aged $250, 375mL bottle, winery only
Beautiful hazel & amber shades. Smells like sugary browned butter and raw cinnamon. Its creamy in texture with flavors of charred and roasted mixed nuts and pudding pie. The finish lasted nearly 2 minutes. My favorite of the bunch.
1995 Cabernet Franc $250, 375mL bottle, winery only
At first I very much disliked it. It looked like muddy water and smelled like a 30 year old bottle of Bordeaux way past its prime and with a tablespoon of sugar. I came back to after tasting through the rest of the wines. While the color didnt improve, everything else did. The nose turned into figs, and brown sugar melting over oatmeal. The flavors that were hiding before were no longer shy, and had become expressive in strawberries and caramel fondue.
NV Sarkling Vidal $60-$100 375mL bottle, limited distribution. NA @ Binnys
Its fun to watch the bubbles flow through this. The texture is creamy and fizzy all at the same time. Drinking it feels like a Lambic upfront but feels like a wine on the end. The nose and the palate are concurrent with sweet lemon, nectarines, Orangina and grapefruit. You will burp. I did.
I know we dont offer many of the wines that are listed here, but if you are ever in the Niagra area or have the time make the trip, its worth every second of your time. While you are there, Niagara Falls is only about 30 minutes south of the winery, and it is breathtaking.
Questions, comments and discussions are not only acceptable, but encouraged,