Rosewood Estates: Tasting Notes and Harvest!

Today I am sharing Neil’s tasting notes on two more winners from Rosewood Estates, one of my generous sponsors for IFBC .  For this particular pairing, I cooked (well, Neil did the turkey – it’s his traditional Thanksgiving job) and Neil’s job was to provide two bottles to go with the meal.

The weather is variable, the leaves offer a panoply of colour, and the turkey is in the oven.  Sounds like a perfect time for a bottle of wine!

I’m a great fan of white wine, but when the nights get cooler I tend to turn to reds more often.  For the many people who prefer reds, pairing with white meats can pose a challenge.  Remember the first rule of wine drinking:  drink what you enjoy.  Yes, there are some pairings that go better with others (in some cases for very scientific reasons (heavy tannins with omega acids…), and you want a wine to complement your meal – not overpower it.  But even given those general guidelines, what’s the point having a “perfect match” if you don’t like the wine?

With that as preamble, while my turkey was resting prior to carving, I reached into our collection of Rosewood Estates wines, in search of a suitable red to pair.  I wanted something dry, not too tannic, definitely not heavy on the alcohol, and not too robust with the fruit.

I chose the Rosewood 2008 Cabernet Franc.  A bit heavier than some would suggest, but we had a fairly full-on meal that included our organic turkey that had been brined overnight, and then roasted with lots of herbs; pear chutney; risotto with roasted tomatoes; stuffing with grilled apples (and a touch of the pear chutney).  Cabernet Franc thrives in cooler climates, and as such does exceedingly well in Ontario.  Often expressing bell pepper on the nose, the Rosewood offering was classic in this regard, with some fresh raspberry and vinegar (in a good way!) notes.  With a bit of time in barrel, slight cigar box and chocolate were present…but not too strong.  Moderately acidic and medium-bodied on the palate, it married well with the mix of dishes we had on offer.  The finish was medium, with a touch of shale.  Judging by how quickly the four of us finished it up, I’d say this was an appreciated pairing!

Alas, it was our only bottle, so we moved on.  Breaking all the rules myself, I turned to a lighter red for our second bottle:  the Rosewood 2008 Pinot Noir.  (Yes…I know; I should have opened in the opposite order.  But it was either that or a Cab Sauv – and I wanted to make it a Rosewood meal.)  This Pinot was quite pale in colour, almost making me wonder if it was Gamay Beaujolais (a clone), with bright red tones.  Fresh strawberry notes leapt from the glass and  raspberries and light spice (white pepper, sandalwood) rounded out the nose.  On the palate, low tannins and acid, a somewhat racy cherry predominated.  The finish was a touch on the low side, but was integrated throughout.  A decent Pinot representative of the Niagara region.

(For those without access to Niagara wines, cooler climate Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc would provide similar matches: a Chinon from the Loire in France; a Pinot Noir from Oregon (though they tend to be pricey).  If you’re purchasing warmer climate wines (California, Australia), ask for something from a cooler micro-climate (i.e. Paso Robles or Tasmania).   Otherwise, I’d recommend staying away from anything too big and bold on the red front; go white with racy Riesling or oaked Chardonnay or Semillon if you want powerful.

[Editor’s note: And about that Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes... Well, much like the dolamdes and the apple cake I served, this side dish for our turkey dinner was served because I needed to cook something for the blog – in this case, this month’s RSVP Redux. A recipe from Restaurant Saveur, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin and published in Bon Appétit’s October 2010 edition, I chose it because I had some lovely cherry tomatoes to use up and I loved the idea of a lighter dish to accompany our turkey.]

[This was a keeper for sure – I loved the slight sweetness of the tomato with the tartness of the lemon.  I can imagine it would go really well with the lamb it was originally paired with.]

Neil was also lucky enough to help Rosewood with their Merlot harvest a couple of weekends ago. Here’s his report!

HARVEST!  Yes, it’s time to pick the grapes that have been lovingly tended to all through the growing season, so they can start in earnest the transformation process into the nectar of the Gods – wine.  Here in North America they’ve felt the need to use the term “crush” as it sounds trendy in marketing pieces.  But in essence grapes are a crop, and deciding when to harvest is especially tricky.  It is perhaps one of the most influential decisions a winemaker will make because you can never improve from your source material.  Mother Nature provides an element of suspense, as waiting too long could end up with devastating hail or rains; conversely, picking too early might not have the right level of ripeness (and most importantly, sugar content – measured as “brix”).

A couple of weekends ago, Krys from Rosewood Estates emailed me: “tomorrow we harvest Merlot”.  So (too) early the next morning, I found myself heading down to Vineland to get my hands dirty.  Merlot is one of the later grapes to be harvested, with Cabernet Franc likely the last in this area.  (Save ice wines, a topic for another day.)  Rosewood’s winemaker, Natalie Spytkowsky, had decided now was the time.  And when harvesting – now means NOW.  Harvest day is an amalgam of four processes:

1.    Picking of the grapes
2.    Sorting
3.    De-stemming
4.    Starting the fermentation process.

As a worker bee, I was slotted on the sorting table and checking grapes after coming from the de-stemmer.  Shades of Lucille Ball and pies!  The photos below walk you through some of the process.

Working on the sorting table – you can see in the background the pallets of grapes, just freshly picked from the vines.  Check for heavily botrytis-affected grapes, smell for signs of vinegar where fermentation may have started, separate out clusters, remove bad grapes.

Bouncing grapes!  You need to quickly separate and check, before the vibrations of the table draw them closer into the destemmer conveyor at the end of the line.

After the sorting table, grape clusters (still on the vine) are dropped onto this conveyor, leading up into the destemmer.  (It’s actually on an incline.)

The detritus from the destemmer machine.  This will be used as fertiliser or mulch back in the vineyards.  If you see grapes – well they would be too unripe to come off, so fine left here.

The grapes come out the other side of the destemmer.  Two people work to pull any large vine stems or larger stem debris from the bucket conveyor.  You need quick hands, as you can see – this goes up on a steep angle, then dropping into the vat.

Up the bucket conveyor, and straight into the fermentation vat.  Not too many stems made it past us!

The pallet of grapes being dumped onto the sorting table, incline to destemmer (silver top) up to right; detritus bin is behind that; destemmed grapes fall into bottom on left and go up bucket conveyor into vat.

Rosewood is lucky to have some excellent winery staff, among them Assistant Winemaker Luke Orwinski.  Ably assisted by two co-op students who have been with them all summer, they welcomed a wine geek like myself along for the fun.  One “hopes” to have helped more than hindered on this fast-paced day!  My thanks to Krystina for inviting me to help with harvest, and the entire team for making me feel most welcome.  It was an enlightening experience.  I’ll be sure to purchase a few cases of 2010 Rosewood Estates Merlot when it comes out, feeling a personal sense of pride, even with my feeble efforts.

Thanks Neil for this report on what looks like a great day and thank you for your continued expertise in the wine and food pairings!

In case you are wondering, yes, I made it through to Round 7 of Project Food Blog and am madly working on bringing a recipe to life through a video. Thank you all for your support and votes – look out for my video (my first! eeek!) sometime later this week!

** Did you know? Jamie Oliver is speaking in Toronto on November 18th.  Thanks to The Art of Cooking, I am able to offer a discount to you, my readers, of $10 per ticket (more if you purchase more than 5 tickets).  Click here for the special promotion code to be applied to your ticket price.  Don’t miss this event – I saw Jamie speak last year and it was inspirational to say the least. It inspired me to start Les Petits Chefs, for one…

27 thoughts on “Rosewood Estates: Tasting Notes and Harvest!”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Rosewood Estates: Tasting Notes and Harvest! --
  2. Pingback: RSVP Recipes from Bon Appetit for October, 2010 — RSVP Redux
  3. Hey Mardi! Great wine writeup – we’re big fans of Cab franc ourselves. I actually like the “tobacco” notes I get out of the ones I drink. And your RSVPRedux roundup with risotto looks delicious! I didn’t get a chance to make that, so I’m glad others did. Now I know I don’t have to keep the recipe because I can find it on the site.

    Have a great and safe Halloween!


  4. Looks like a great Thanksgiving meal to me! Nothing like Canadian Thanksgiving to get us in the US prepped!

    I would drink Cab Franc with Thanksgiving. Now that I think about it I think I will this year. I think I should be able to get some from some local NH wineries.

    I love harvest time at the local wineries. I didn’t pick anywhere this year but ended up picking at a friends place. I have the Concord rose stabilizing out on my porch right now.

    I love your comment about breaking the rules when going from a heavy wine to a lighter wine. I’d venture that a meal with so much complexity as Thanksgiving you can bounce around a bit and it not really be a bad thing.

    I had a couple of notable, and unplanned, pairings last Thanksgiving that worked really well. First was the Chambourcin from Connecticut Valley Winery. The wine has a nice spicy and acidic structure to it that ended up being an aid to cleansing the palate between bites. I brought it out mid-way through the meal and wished I had two bottles and could have brought it out earlier.

    The other pairing was a nice way to shift gears between dinner and dessert. There was 1-2 hours between the two and I served a white wine named Diamond from Candia Vineyards in NH. A native American grape it has that “grapey” flavor and a subtle sweetness. By the time dessert came along everyone was ready for dessert wines with sweet treats.



  5. I made the full menu from Bon Appetit. The Lemon Risotto and the Lamb Shanks were great together.
    Knowing how much you love lemon things and lamb I had planned on having it at our next dinner party …..oh well I guess I will have to think of something else!!

  6. Next year I propose that we both celebrate Thanksgiving twice… I will come visit you in Canada and then you can come visit me here in the US. Twice the fun! Everything looks lovely, and I always enjoy reading wine notes since I can never really distinguish much of anything when I drink wine!

  7. Nothing like getting involved with the harvest, I’ve only ever done it a couple of times and had the best time, it really does feel like a celebration, everyone’s in such a great mood in a good old fashioned roll your sleeves up & work hard way. Like the idea of the Cabernet Franc, like your notes a lot.
    Cheers Anna


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