Monday, October 05, 2009

A look as some Niagara wines

I've been making a habit of stopping at Niagara wineries to taste wines for almost a decade now. When I relocated to Toronto in late 1998, becoming a wine aficionado was nowhere my list of expectations. However, I didn't expect to be writing a blog either.

I first became interested in Niagara wine after reading an article about Crown Bench Estates. Crown Bench sits near the rim of the Escarpment at the top of Aberdeen. It's worth a trip for the view and for the wine as well. I haven't been by there in a few years - perhaps I will when the 2007 reds start to arrive.

So what have I learned about Niagara wines in the past decade?

1. We have as good a variety of wines and styles to taste - and taste quality - as one will find anywhere.

I've tasted in the Napa, Sonoma and Andersen Valley AVAs in California, and a little in Australia. In Australia, there is more of a regional focus - Shiraz and Semillon in hotter regions as an example. If you go to a tasting in the Hunter Valley, only a few of the wines will be local. In California, even all the way from Carneros to Anderson Valley, you'd be hard-pressed to find the same variety of varietals. Obviously, you will not find ice wine in either Australia or California.

2. Year to year variation is more pronounced here

The trade-off for variety is that our climate is not always kind to all varietals. Not only that, frost can damage vines beyond recovery.

For example, 2003 was a poor year. More than a few wineries did not bottle their usual range of offerings. Some were allowed to bend VQA rules on a temporary basis.

It's good to be aware of the vintages. 2007 is looking very promising. The LCBO's vintage chart list 2007 and the first 9-rated vintage since 1995. I have already picked up some excellent 2007's from Fielding Estate and Malivoire. Keep in mind the relatively wet summers the this year (2009) and last (2008).

3. Niagara has variety - but it is better for some varietals than others

In my experience, the wines to pay attention to are (with my favourite producers in parentheses):

- Gamay Noir (Malivoire, Feathersone, 13th Street Sandstone)
- Cabernet Franc (Laileys, Daniel Lenko, Featherstone)
- Pinor Noir (very year dependent)

- Riesling (Fielding, Cave Springs, Flat Rock)
- Chardonnay (Lenko, Crown Bench, Malivoire)

That's not to say you will not find excellent examples of Cabernt Sauvignon, Gewrurztramer - and let's not forget the hybrids Baco Noir (Henry of Pelham, Hernder Estates) and Marechal Foch (De Souza).

No Coyotes in Hamilton

I had given RIM billionaire Jim Balsillie a fighting chance to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton. In the end - right or wrong - the NHL deck was stacked against him.

Many people will blame NHL chief Gary Bettman. This is unfair. Bettman is just doing his job - which is working for the owners. The owners didn't want a Balsillie owner-team in Hamilton.

The Canadian press hates Bettman because he's an American lawyer. The dumb thing about this - Bettman is a Cornell grad. There are few fan-bases more enraptured about hockey that Cornellians.

The dumb thing about the owners is that Toronto could easily support three teams.

Consider English soccer. London - population of about 8 million - sports four of the traditional powers and contenders of English soccer. These are:

West Ham

The combined market Vallie of these clubs is around $2 billion - and they have carted home a good share of titles over the past forty years.

Now the Toronto Maple Leafs. They haven't one a title in over forty years - and are valued at a mere $312 million or so - despite a captive fan base of about 6 million.

We could easily have three teams. Following London's example, there would be more value - and some actual success on the ice.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Miller and Sunrise

David Miller recently surprised most Torontonians, and many other observers, by announcing that he will not run for a third term as mayor in next years municipal elections.

Many people are thrilled. I'm happy to see Miller depart. However, there's a huge mess left behind.

Now speaking of messes, the explosion at the Sunrise Propane facility - now a little over a year ago - made a big one. You may remember that Miller was away on vacation at the time - and decided not to come back to support Torontonians at that time.

Now what's really interesting. Stung by the criticism, Miller seems to have pushed the city into taking over the clean-up of the site. If you believe Miller, this was because Sunrise wasn't doing the clean-up. However, the company stated that they had not been allowed on site. The fire marshall would not allow access during the investigation.

Regardless, it seems that the city's rules for emergency procurement were not followed. Certain city managers can authorise emergency expenditures - without going through the normal tendering process.

However, they must report the emergency procurement to council (or the appropriate committee) at the very next meeting.

This constituent can find no record of a city manager making such a report. If so, this expenditure was not authorized.

The rush to push Sunrise out of the cleanup - and make it look like Miller was riding to the rescue - may cost the taxpayers big time when this gets to court.