Pelee Island Winery Part 1

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K. Stephen

(KINGSVILLE, ON) – Pelee Island falls within the VQA Lake Erie North Shore designation. If you want to call your grapes VQA Lake Erie North Shore, 85% of the juice in the bottle must be from Lake Erie North Shore. Strange that none of the wines sampled were VQA Lake Erie North Shore, but VQA Ontario. Meaning the grapes can come from anywhere in Ontario.

I recall Pelee Island Winery as an old established winery. It looks a bit like an Alpine Bunker and shows its age.

It’s no snappy, cool urban hipster winery like Viewpointe Estate or Coopers’ Hawk. It’s solid and established and it’s president and wine-master, Walter Schmoranz, is one of the most welcoming and hospitable wine dudes who knows how to care for his guests and treat them like royalty.

Let’s be frank though.

Pelee Island Winery is no esoteric producer of darling, precious, and expensive wines. It produces vast quantities of wines under a multitude of brands running from $11 to $50, with most wines being around the $15 mark.

I’d like to think a fair wine at a fair price.

Given the amount of magnums available, one might say, “The Ernst J Gallo of Ontario.”

Let’s just see what Pelee Island Winery can deliver. They have surprised me a few times with some very good wines at low prices.

The 2013 Night Glider Gamay Noir Zweigelt blend has a rather transparent, dark ruby colour. A nifty nose of black cherry, raspberry Jell-O, watermelon, and a waft of smoke.

Light and fun and very tightly and professionally crafted.

The raspberry Jell-O gets picked up in the palate along with some rhubarb, dark chocolate, and pomegranate. As they say, an easy drinking wine and for summer drinking, slightly chilled. Just the type of red wine that refreshes.

Dry, yes, and a bit flippant. (Pelee Island Winery 2013 Gamay Noir Zweigelt, VQA Ontario, 750 mL, 12.5%, $11.75, Square Media Group Rating 84/100). 48% Gamay Noir, 43% Zweigelt, and 9% Cabernet Franc.

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a gutsy effort. Any Cabernet Sauvignon in Ontario is a challenge and the best I have had is from Lake Erie North Shore’s Colchester Ridge Estate Winery.

This wine is garnet coloured with aromas of cherry pie, blackberry, rhubarb, choco covered cherries, and a dusting of icing sugar.

Its tannins are medium and on the palate; chocolate, rhubarb pie, all with a sneaky seam of acidity. Well paired with fresh Ontario field tomatoes in a salad or used to prepare a pasta sauce.

Drinkable but, hey, this is an Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon. (Pelee Island Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, VQA Ontario, 750 mL, 13%, $14.75, Square Media Group Rating 84/100).

Baco Noir is a grape of wackiness. It’s hard to make spot-on wine. It’s a tricky grape. Like Pinotage in South Africa. I have had superb and terrible and even some of the terrible have had fantastic noses but crumbled on the palate like a junior minister during a vicious debate in the House of Commons.

Well we have not only a Baco Noir but a Reserve Baco Noir, which means nothing in Ontario wine-speak, but in other countries it usually indicates some degree of maturation in wood and a certain amount of time in the bottle.

Ruby and garnet coloured. It looks light and quasi-transparent. It has loads of smoke and duskiness on the nose. Interesting and belligerent black cherry aromatics and loutish blackberries.

On the palate, sour cherry, blueberries, and stewed prunes. It has a fairly imposing presence in the mouth.

The Baco beast has been well tamed. What a wine for turkey with cranberry sauce. It reminds me of a blend of Vapolicella and Pinotage. (Pelee Island Winery 2013 Baco Noir Reserve, VQA Ontario, 750 mL, 13%, $14.75, Square Media Group Rating 87/100) 85% Baco Noir and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.

I don’t wish to bore you with repetitive statements, but if you can’t make a decent Cabernet Franc in Ontario just go home. Long after I am dead and gone and residing in a gated community in heaven, they’ll be saying Cab Franc is Ontario’s hotspot unless, of course, global warming changes my sentiment to Sauvignon instead of Franc.

Pelee Island Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc is garnet coloured. Gorgeous aromas of wet autumn leaves and freshly rolled Cohibas. Not to miss out on fruit, but a healthy dollop of black cherry.

On the palate, a good hit of coal, dark chocolate, pomegranate, and a subtle, if not stubborn, streak of raspberry. Just about a medium bodied wine with a short but clean and distinctive finish. A very clean and honest Cabernet Franc.

Sorry, I have summer on my mind, but serve this one cool on a hot summer night with some grilled sausages on an egg bun with mango chutney and whatever other fixings you like.

Pelee Island Winery has passed the Cabernet Franc test and can hold its head high with fellow Lake Erie North Shore producers. (Pelee Island Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc, VQA Ontario, 750 mL, 13%, $11.95, Square Media Group Rating 89/100).

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC.

Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden.

Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, “Have Story, Will Write.”

Email Robert Stephen

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