TNs: Xmas Dinner Party in Aurora

Greetings Berserkers,

'Tis the holiday season and I attended my first 2022 holiday dinner party last night. 10 people gathered at our friend Anne’s home including fellow TWEC ™ and board member Mike Grammer and settled in for a lovely dinner with eclectic food and wine contributions galore.

Westcott Vineyards 2020 Chardonnay – Though quite young, this local Niagara, Ontario wine was actually a surprisingly very intense Chardonnay with loads of baked apple flavor. I was actually pleasantly shocked. Blind, I would swear it was a California Chardonnay. Keep in mind, 2020 was one of the absolute best local vintages we’ve ever had in Niagara, Ontario. We are of course big fans of Westcott and are acquainted with the entire family having first visited the winery when it opened and have been mainstays ever since. They always do great but this was well above and beyond what I’ve had from them before and I’m pretty sure the vintage has to do with that.

Domaine Weinbach 2019 Cuvee Ste. Catherine Pinot Gris – A very good Pinot Gris that straddles the line between the rich Alsacian style that some find too sweet and heavy and the drier more crystalline texture of a Trimbach. Crenshaw melon and smoke flavors. Went perfectly with Mike’s Amaretto Peach Gazpacho appetizer.

Kacaba 2016 Syrah – Before 2020, 2016 was the last great hot vintage for local Niagara, Ontario wine and this is another of our favorite producers. Very smooth texture, redolent with black cherry flavor and accents of smoky black pepper. In a very good place right now.

Bellwoods Brewery Jelly King Dry Hopped Sour Beer – This was a magnum of a local Ontario craft brewery’s sour, and it was great. Refreshing, tart, hoppy and full of tangerine flavor. I never drink beer and I really enjoyed this.

Mongrard - Mugneret 2012 Beaune 1er Cru Les Avaux – Quite unfortunately, this was a bit corked and depending on who was tasting it, it seemed to vary how strong it was but it was definitely there. I found it to be mild but certainly detectable, then it seemed to get stronger in the glass, and then it started to blow off a little. Quelle dommage, it really ruined the enjoyment of what were otherwise some pretty intense black cherry flavors and a texture more like a Cali or Alsace Pinot Noir than a more delicate Burgundy. I could finish my small glass, but I certainly didn’t want another and there was no way the wine was going to survive the night and would certainly have to go down the drain. Others simply didn’t bother to finish their glasses at all and I certainly couldn’t fault them. Really unfortunate. So we simply moved on to –

Westcott Vineyards 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir – This was classic Westcott whole cluster Pinot Noir, light fruity black cherry in a light body with a smooth texture. Very enjoyable. It would have been very interesting to contrast it with the Beaune had that wine been in top condition. As it is, we couldn’t drink this fast enough after the disappointment of the Beaune. Can’t want to see what their 2020 is like.

We then pivoted to the sweet wines with our desserts and we had a couple of interesting ones. My contribution was:

1997 Moulin Touchais – This was just superb and got raves from the table. Light to medium body, fresh apricot aromas, sweet dried apricot and Seville orange flavors that remind you of Grand Marnier with honeyed sweetness and a light touch of acidity to keep it all refreshing. Many at the table who’d never had a Moulin Touchais remarked that they found it very similar to Sauternes which I thought was an interesting common note. Well I looked it up and sure enough the 1997 vintage was composed of 60% botrytised fruit which is an unusually high proportion for a Moulin Touchais. This tasted like it was bottled yesterday and it could probably age for another 20 years easily if not more. This is honest to God a sweet wine you should serve to people who think they don’t like sweet wine.

Anne’s Friend’s Port – So our hostess Anne gave us an after dinner tour of her house and in her wine collection, she’s got a bunch of half bottles of “Port” with a label that none of us have ever seen before. Turns out it was a Port made in a DIY wine shop in Nepean by a friend of hers from Ottawa 25 years ago. And she’s kept them ever since and never opened them. So naturally, everyone then became extremely curious and Anne thought it would be fun to open one and try it. I took a hit for the team and decided to drink it first so that everyone else would know it was safe to drink if I didn’t die. Well I didn’t drop dead and now I’m here posting this recap the day after, so all was good.

The wine itself was actually quite pleasant, with black plum flavors, a hint of coffee and mild sweetness. It drank more like 16% ABV than 20% IMHO which I base on the light texture, freshness and lack of heat than I would experience from a bottle of Ruby Port. The mild but distinct fruit flavor leads me to believe it was made from local Ontario grapes, most likely Baco Noir. No Portugal producer is going to quake in their boots at this, of course, but IMHO the fact that it is tasty, fresh and completely viable after two decades minimum sitting in Anne’s basement cold room is a testament to her friend’s DIY winemaking skills and the quality of the DIY facility’s products.

Dominion City Brewing Wilderness Gothic Gamay – Yes, we went back for more after finishing dessert and sweet wine. This was another local craft brewery creation. Freshly-pressed Niagara Gamay juice is added to a 12 month foeder-fermented Saison style beer. This was crisp and refreshing with more of a baked berry pie flavor where the Jelly King leaned more towards tangerine. I definitely preferred the Jelly King but this was pretty good too.

Kacaba 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – Another steal from our hostess Anne’s cold room collection, this was another great hot year for local Niagara, Ontario wine and in fact is one of our more celebrated vintages. Pretty concentrated red fruit flavor but a much lighter body than you would get from a Cali Cab and still somewhat tannic. This is perfect for someone who loves the flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon but hates the big texture of hotter climate produced Cab Sauvs. Keep in mind, this is an anomaly for Niagara, Ontario and this type of Cab Sauv can only be produced in our hottest vintages. 2010, 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2022 are the ones to look for.

Great start to the 2022 holiday season. Thanks to Anne for hosting and all the guests for their food and wine contributions.


And thanks , Tran, for the pics and amazing detailed notes. Mine will be much more point form. The 2020 Westcott Chard was lovely—they’ve come such a long way from the heavier -handed approach which they started out with. Not extra-deep, but fresh and everything in place

The 2019 Weinbach PG was extra-lovely, pear fruit core and an extra level of presence and expressiveness that seems to come with the vintage.

I brought the Weinbach and also the 2012 Mongeard-Mugneret Beaune Les Avaux. Tran confirmed my suspicion of corked. Not heavily, but certainly enough to strip any charm or texture from the wine. Dommage

The 2016 Kacaba Syrah, another Ontario wine, was OK, but given the vintage, lighter and not all that convincing. I have yet to find, with rare exceptions, that Syrah works here.

The 2010 Kacaba Cab was in very fine form. There’s real structure and finish here and enough black fruit still there to hold that part. Enjoyed it

Was very nice of Tran to open the 97 Moulin Touchais. It has the promise of that very good vintage but is painfully young in terms of reticence. 20 years at least would be my guess for the open window

A great group of friends made for a very warm holiday gathering. I am a lucky man for sure

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FYI I had to make a correction to my recap above as I got a couple of Anne’s stories mixed up with each other and wrongly gave her next door neighbors credit for her friend in Ottawa’s good work on the DIY Port. That has been corrected above now. As a make good, I added some gratuitous food porn pics to whet everyone’s appetites as you all engage in your own holiday endeavors.