Wayne Gretzky Estates Meritage 2006

At the fairly ritzy SAQ Sélection on boul. De Maisonneuve Ouest Saturday afternoon, I put the bottle of Osoyoos-Larose I’d gone there to buy in my card… and then I noticed a pitiful clump of neglected bottles nearby. What? One of Canada’s best known sportsmen had produced a wine? What the hell? The capsules were dinged up, the back labels all had French language labels hastily applied, peeling already, with typefaces that didn’t match anything; underneath were labels that appeared to have been designed for US export. The URL on the back didn’t work (it’s outdated), there were still more slapped-on labels talking about a charitable foundation… ugh, what a mess.Of course, I immediately put back the prized bottle of Osoyoos-Larose and bought this wine instead. After all, Wayne Gretzky, eh?So: how is it? Fairly ordinary looking in the glass, the nose offers up simple, attractive, cherry-berry flavors with just a hint of oak and/or glue; I’m not sure which. In the mouth, you get a somewhat thin, somewhat fake wine with body that seems largely derived from alcohol with maybe a little bit of residual sugar, not extract; there really isn’t much by the way of flavor here, but at least what little you get isn’t bad, especially not compared to the Jackson-Triggs merlot from last week. With some aeration, it improves a bit to the point where voilá, you’ve got a decent pizza wine: little red fruits, some smoky oak, decent acidity, and a good enough finish. Not too shabby! Overpriced by Californian standards, it didn’t seem that expensive in a Canadian context. I’d be interested to see how their current wines are faring; there could be some potential here for a exceptional sub-$20 wine in the future.No. 99 Estates Winery
Price: C$17.99 (US $17)
Closure: Synthetic cork

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Reserve Merlot 2005

It’s Friday night here in Québec, and I just got back from the long walk to the local state-owned liquor store. I asked (in bad French) where the red Canadian wines were, and the clerk switched to English, joking that they didn’t have many owing to the “border skirmishes” between here and Ontario. Sorry, folks, but it was either this wine or the Dan Aykroyd, so I went with what they had.If there’s a nose to this wine, I’m sorry, but it’s escaping me at the moment. Although it’s a lush reddish color with just a hint of browning (presumably due to the somewhat iffy plastic cork), it doesn’t smell of much more than somewhat dusty (ready: oak-chip-y) red fruits with a whiff of something not quite right like nail varnish. It’s not exactly appetizing, alas.Rich, full-bodied, and nicely tannic in the mouth, the primary flavor is something that I don’t associate with Merlot, and I’m not sure exactly how to describe it. There seems to be an unwelcome greenness or stalkiness here, which suggests to me that this wine has been chaptalized; there’s plenty of alcohol here (beaucoup de jambes, mes amis), but the flavor profile doesn’t match. It reminds me of frozen Supreme Pizza, the kind with a lot of green pepper on it and industrial pepperoni that tastes of little more than pepper. In short, folks, this wine is kind of nasty. Unfortunately, it’s all I have until I can get into Montréal proper tomorrow (I’m out by the airport in a generic business hotel at this point), so it’ll just have to make do. In the meantime, let’s hope that room service gets here quickly.Jackson-Triggs
Price: C$16.35
Closure: Synthetic cork

Dan Aykroyd "Discovery Series" Cabernet-Merlot 2006

At my local LCBO, two shelves below the Wayne Gretzky Unoaked Chardonnay, I found Dan Aykroyd’s wines dangerously close to the salt and snow stained floor.
One thing to be understood about Canadians is that essentially we are Marsha from The Brady Bunch. Just as in our cinema, when it comes to wines Canadians have to be coaxed into believing they’re good enough, smart enough and pretty enough. This means selling Canadian wines to Canadians is probably harder than it needs to be. In comes the recent rash of celebrity wines to lend a solution to that problem.
So I put on my Bill Murray Clothing Shirt and cracked a bottle of Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Cabernet Merlot 2006. At $16.95 (+$0.05 bottle deposit) this prices it just about in the dead centre for an Ontario produced and cellared wine. Other than an iridescent microphone the label isn’t silly or kitsch. This wine wants you to take it seriously, so I did.
The nose has something in it. I think it’s strawberry? It’s faint. It could be blackberry or other berries. But it’s hardly present. Huge oak flavours and way too much sulphur. It’s retarded how sulphuric this stuff is. Afterwards some mouth feel and residual sulphur remains. And that’s about it. It’s like licking an oak tree while somebody farts in your face. The sulphur is very chemical, industrial even. Reminds me of the treated well water at my uncle’s farm.
I waited an hour for the sulphur to off gas. Eureka. Suddenly this is a different animal. The strawberries are gone and a little more typically berry flavoured. The bottle still smells like strawberries and sulphur. The tannic oaky flavour is still a bit strong for my taste but suddenly this is more like a bottle of cab-merlot that should cost $17, probably less. Not horribly remarkable but not bad at all. What was with the initial sulphur? Weird. It finished like a cheap date with that acidic feel on the teeth and not much of a taste other than, well, acid.
I’m glad Dan Aykroyd is investing in the wineries here on the Niagara Peninsula. But I think the whole idea behind the “Discovery Series” is to introduce people to wines they’ve never tried before. That makes sense. But I’m wondering if people who drink wine and buy $17 bottles at the LCBO have never had a really bold cab-merlot before? I guess that’s where lending a celebrity name comes into the picture.
If it had the Ghostbusters logo on it I’d review it better.
Dan Aykroyd [but really Lakeview]Price: C$16.95Closure: SyntheticDate tasted: January 2008