Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dialogue at Lailey



Again, I direct you first to my piece from my last visit with Lailey, in March: Niagara Tour - Lailey Vineyard

I love these wines with all my heart. I've relayed this story over and over, but it's worth repeating again. 2005 Lailey Pinot Noir was the turning point in my appreciation of Niagara wines. If there's any one wine that I can taste in my dreams, this is it.

We met with Derek this time, who makes the wine here. I've seen Derek before, but never had the pleasure to speak with him. As always, we started by going to the vineyards. As you can see, the vines look healthy, and astonishingly clean. Derek comments that this year's crop may well become the finest pinot noir he's ever seen. Still a few days away from being picked, but I'm very excited about the potential of 2009 pinot noir.

In Lailey's Cellar

It was raining quite hard, so we moved into the cellar. Tasting cask samples is always important for me. Being able to track each vintage, through each stage of evolution in oak gives me a greater understanding of how wine transforms into its final product. We last tasted the 2008 chardonnay and pinot noir in cask 6 months ago, and I was eager to see how they were showing. We started with barrel samples of 2008 Old Vines Chardonnay. Citrus and caramel on the nose, with an unctuousness in the mouth. A touch oaky for me, but what saves the wine is its racy acidity. Very fresh, and still sitting on its lees. This sample was from a new barrel, so the final bottling may very well be a bit more balanced and showing less oak. Next was the 2008 Brickyard Vineyard Pinot Noir. I remember this wine well. Absolutely delicious, right out of barrel. Lots of fresh, plump rose petals, with fresh red fruits. Beautiful, just showing so beautifully. Aggressive acidity, very bright. We moved onto 2008 Old Vines Pinot Noir. Very Burgundian in style - a bit denser and darker, with a savoury gaminess and earthiness to the bouquet. Wonderful. Ethereal length and absolutely delicious. I described the difference between the two pinot noirs to Derek as spring and autumn. Both wonderful and full of character. I mentioned in passing to Derek that I was interested in Lailey's syrah as well, and he kindly pulled a few cask samples of 2008 Syrah for us. Spicy, with dark fruits and a brooding character. Great cool climate character, with the telltale acidity of Niagara. For fun, Derek pulled samples of 2008 Impromptu for us as well, which is a proprietary blend of about 70% syrah, with the remainder being petit verdot and malbec. Very interesting - lots of black pepper on the nose, with a distinct syrah character - the difference with this wine is the absolutely velvet richness in texture.

Going into the winery, Derek proceeded to open a few bottles for us. Many bottles in fact - Derek was very generous in sharing his wines with us. We began with a surprise find - 2001 Chardonnay. Surprise for everyone. Apparently, no one knew that there was a case of this wine left...4 cases in fact. Beautiful gold colour, showing maturity but by no means tired. Lots of sweet tangerine in the mouth, with a buttery richness and fresh finish that remains quite youthful. Delicious. We tasted both 2007 Pinot Noir, and 2007 Canadian Oak Pinot Noir. The Canadian Oak pinot noir is actually showing a bit more elegance at this point, but both these wines are far too young. We tasted 2007 Impromptu as well, which likewise needs more bottle age. We finished with 2007 Vidal Icewine. Good sweetness, balanced by great acidity, but I've stopped hoping from complexity for vidal. It's still a good wine though.

This visit was extraordinary. I've never had the good fortune to truly engage in dialogue with someone who shares the same tastes in wine as myself, and who understands what the true taste in wine is. Derek shares the same philosophy in wine, and was so honest in sharing his knowledge with me. Many thanks, and I hope to see you soon to see how the 2009 wines are coming along.

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