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I am going through my piles of tasting notes trying to dig up some Easter taste treats that won't break the bank. Of course, what you drink depends on what you intend to eat. I have had a long love affair with smoked ham. It all began many, many, years ago, before anyone was conscious of global warming, when I would enjoy Spring skiing in the Laurentians. The best part of the trip was stopping at a favourite restaurant, Au Petit Poucet, which originally opened in 1945. When I visited, it was still housed in a log cabin on the highway near Val-David just north of Montreal. Their melt-in the-mouth, maple-cured, smoked ham accompanied by stunning homemade beans served in a rich elixir of molasses and maple syrup were incredibly delicious. For more information click here.
In those days, we would stop at a roadside stand and pick up bottles of local, homemade $1.99 Quebec cider. It was dangerously drinkable and perfect with the ham. While Au Petit Poucet ham and beans can still be ordered for overnight delivery, cheap Quebec roadside cider has disappeared.
Thankfully, Ontario produces its own ciders. Last summer I extolled the virtues Archibald Orchards & Estate Winery Hard Cider at $8.95 a bottle. It is still only available at the Bowmanville winery, although case orders will be delivered for free anywhere in Ontario. To check out availability click here
To discover the best, earlier this week I did a blind tasting of five ciders all widely available on the LCBO general list. I had two from County Cider Company, which is located in Prince Edward County where over 15 varieties of apples are grown in two orchards comprising of some 40 acres of apple trees. One, Waupoos Premium Cider (612804) was very good with wonderful, fresh, ripe apple aromas and fairly dry, harmonious, light, gently effervescent, fresh apple flavours with crisp, clean finish. With 6.5% alcohol, four 341 ml twist cap bottles sell for $13.35 or 28¢ per ounce.
As good as this one is, unfortunately, you should avoid the other County Cider entry: one-litre plastic bottles of County Premium Cider (459370) at $7.15 or 20¢ per ounce. It had an unpleasant, leesy nose and doughy, peppery, bitter flavours. To make matters challenging, no lot code or best-before date could be found on the bottle or label. Surely the provincial government should not permit the sale of consumables in LCBO stores without such codes (they appear on all imported products).
Also, why are award winning ciders and fruit wines, which are made from locally grown produce, not treated in the same fashion as VQA wines? Wineries can sell grape based wines (but not designated 100% fruit based wines) directly to a restaurant and recover most of the LCBO mark-up.
Moving on, if your are looking for more flavourful (with 6% alcohol), I can highly recommend Stowford Press English Export Cider (364) at $4.65 for 660-ml or 20¢ per ounce. It is slightly sweeter and fleshier than Waupoos, with an intense spicy, sweetish, baked apple nose and rich, effervescent, complex, real English scrumpy-styled flavours. If you want to explore the joys of cider click here
At only 15¢ an ounce (or $2.70 per 500-ml can with 5.3% alcohol), Strongbow Cider (560532) from the UK's Scottish & Newcastle Breweries offers drier, well-balanced, gentle ripe apple flavours with some pleasant, effervescent notes.
Also worth trying is Britain's Blackthorn Cider (619551) with 6% alcohol at $2.80 for a 500-ml can, or just over 15¢ an ounce. Slightly sweet and pleasantly zesty, with warm ripe apple and yellow plum purée flavours.
If you are looking for the perfect Easter wine, think pink. Widely available on the LCBO general list at $12.15 is Henry of Pelham 2006 Rosé (613471). Dry, delicate and well balanced, the slightly honeyed, strawberry-tinged, crisp, ripe plum flavours show great, crowd-pleasing versatility - perfect with poultry, ham, pork and even seafood. A cold fermented, stainless steel blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt with 11.5% alcohol.
In the cheap and cheerful department is an inexpensive, taste treat from Hungary St. Ursula Dunavar 2005 Pinot Blanc (565820) at $7.15 on the LCBO general list. Medium straw in colour, this Pinot Blanc has attractive, honeyed, floral, ripe melon-lemon aromas. Dry, smooth and medium-light bodied, you will find its fresh and fruity lemon-melon flavours marry well with pretty much anything.
Looking for a tasty red? In last Monday's April 2 Vintages sale is a fine Spanish red buy. From the Spain's Somontano region, is the deliciously juicy, black cherry flavoured Vinas del Vero 2004 Syrah 'Las Coronas' (14670). Released October 28, 2006, it was a best buy at the original release price of $18.95. It is now is available in a limited number of Vintages outlets at only $16.10. This deep intense purple coloured beauty has a spicy, juicy, ripe black cherry nose with some vanilla stick notes. On the palate it is dry, harmonious and well structured with fairly intense, plummy, dried black cherry flavours. Don't miss it!
To download details on the April 2 Vintages Delist Sale (each item is
linked to my tasting note database) click
- 2007 Tasting Note Database
use our Tasting
Notes Database: click
Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada