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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Just this past weekend, I went camping with a bunch of friends at Lake Francis near Pittsburg, NH. Mind you, this is 20km south of the Canadian border. We’re talking Canadian air on US soil. So close to Canada you could taste the “eh?” with every breath. Moose crossings. Bear sightings. Fishing, hiking, chopping wood. And the best camping I’ve done in a long time. Obviously, we brought several wines on the trip, but the nearness to our northerly national companion made me think it was time for a review of a wine I tried some while ago, my first Canadian white wine ever: the 2007 “L’Acadie” Blanc from the winery Domaine de Grand Pré in Nova Scotia.

Who’s even heard of a Canadian wine that wasn’t ice wine? Nothing wrong with those, but seriously, my knowledge base didn’t even include Canadian wine before I actually went to Canada on a segue from Europe and tried a few at a restaurant on the water. And… they’re pretty good. Not just “wow I didn’t pour it out” good, but “man I should buy a case of this” good.

Domaine de Grand Pré focuses on grapes indigenous or specifically grown for Nova Scotia, distinguishing it from many other wineries in the area who produce their wines using predominantly “global” varietals popular in the Old World and New, like the Noble grapes Chardonnay and Merlot. Instead you find wines like this 2007 “L’Acadie,” consisting entirely of Seyval Blanc. Hardy stuff, the Seyval Blanc grape, well adapted to this cool climate.

The result? It shows a pale straw color in the glass, with a nose dominated by fresh hay and cut grass, thyme, and grapefruit zest. A fun texture in the mouth, round and almost buttery like a Friulano, but not nutty by any means. More citrus fruit and strident acidity lead to a quenching finish. Great summer beverage… eh? This lip-smacking wine, which paired well with baked sole, will cost you $15 Canucks, or about $16 US. Cross the border and raise your glass.

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Summer is hitting heavy, temperatures in the high 90’s Fahrenheit; people stripping down and moving slow. Heat lightning. Sirens. Good grilling weather. To that end, I’m reviewing another personal favorite for cheap domestic Cabernet Sauvignon: the 2008 Pitch Cabernet, from the Columbia Valley in Washington state. Now, for those of you not yet in the know on this one, Washington is what is in American Cabernet. Seriously. California has some good stuff, whatever, but only a few appellations (Alexander Valley, Mt. Veeder, etc.) come even close to the stuff you get out of WA.

Lots of good reasons exist for the superiority of Washington Cabernet. Climate is a big one. The Walla Walla Valley enjoys a fairly cool climate, lying as it does  between the 46th and 47th parallel, near the same northerly latitude as Bordeaux and Burgundy in France. Additional daylight hours mean longer growing seasons, which provide greater time for ripening and thus maturity at harvest. The region’s glacially tilled volcanic soil provides a terroir that has gained deserved fame throughout the country; it drains well, and is poor enough in nutrients that the vines must struggle – one of the keys to growing great wine grapes. The Columbia Valley AVA is divided into numerous microclimates due to the high percentage of rivers and its hilly nature (the Cascade Mountains comprise one border, and Reininger Winery’s owner, Chuck Reininger, is a world-class mountaineer). Among these, Walla Walla produces some of the finest Washington State wines.

Which brings me to this post’s wine: the 2008 Pitch Cabernet Sauvignon. An inky purple in the glass, Pitch presents aromas of rich jammy blackberry and cassis, with hints of cocoa, cola, toasty oak, and an herbal garrigue that I just love in my wine. Medium-bodied in the mouth, displaying a velvety structure but with a tannic bite that makes it passable as a pairing for red meat. Nice smooth finish. Would pair well with grilled burgers or steak tips; a great BBQ wine for sure. $12 a bottle.