Imagine my surprise as I was visiting my cousin in her farmhouse in Saskatchewan, when she pulled out this cellophane wrapped Late Harvest Riesling from Chateau des Charmes, Ontario. What surprised me even more was the vintage. For years, this bottle had been sitting on their dresser, upright, experiencing who knows what kind of temperature changes, collecting dust, and for the most part, being totally ignored and forgotten.
Another surprise was when she told me the winery gave it to them as a gift for visiting. No really….it was just handed to them upon entrance to the winery. Why? Because it was one of their wines that sucked? Because it wasn’t selling, so they decided to give it away? I don’t think so. However, I’ll never know, but it was offered to me to try, and let me tell you…I was excited! A 1998 Late Harvest Riesling from a Ontario region vineyard? (Niagara-on-the-Lake specifically) Yes, please! At 16 years old, I was dubious, never having HAD a Canadian wine this old, but given the fact that it WAS a Late Harvest, I knew it would probably have enough residual sugars in it to be ok. But what I didn’t know, was the level of acid, which is really what lends itself to these types of wines ageing well. It’s not enough for it to be sweet, but it can’t be cloying, and a high level of acid keeps sweet wines from being….well…too sweet!!
As to be expected, I had a little trouble getting the cork out. With the bottle being upright, the cork was dry. My quick trip to the farm didn’t have me thinking I’d need to bring my ah-so along with me, so I did what any other good farm girl would do…I pushed the cork into the bottle! 🙂 (I’m sure you can all see it in the attached picture!) After pouring, I nosed it and was pleasantly surprised to smell honey and dried apricots. On the palate, it was of course, sweet, with continuing flavours of honey, dried apricots, tropical fruits and a touch of caramel! And GREAT acidity, which made the sweetness very UN-cloying and no nutty oxidized flavours! I was impressed!
My research then led me to the website: A true family estate, and like most Canadian winemakers, seriously proud of their terroir, wines, and people who are contributing to such great wines. Given its age, I didn’t find much for this particular wine, but the write up I read from the 2008 vintage indicated that this wine, although taking a back seat to the winery’s more famous Icewine, has been earning consistent awards from year to year. A great value too! At $21 and change for the half-bottle, if one can’t afford the sometimes pricey Icewines, this is the next best thing. Seriously…super impressed with this well made Late Harvest! Their motto says it well: “MAKING WINE IS NOT WHAT WE DO, IT’S WHO WE ARE” . Cheers!