I've been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do two recent vertical tastings (a chronological tasting of back vintages through to current vintages) of several Creekside Estate Winery wines. The first one, I blogged about two weeks ago, the second was another wonderful treat – Creekside recently sold several bottles of their incredible Lost Barrel back vintages, and our friend Gary Killops (Essex Wine Review) purchased a case of four. We decided to split the cost and have a tasting with a group of dedicated Ontario wine lovers - it was well worth it. Our group of 12 headed to Treadwell Restaurant to enjoy four of Creekside’s incredible Lost Barrel wines – the 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2007 vintages.
Lost Barrel is a unique, blend of red grapes and Pinot Noir made using the sediment left over in all of the red wine barrels from each vintage. As Creekside explains in their tasting notes, “When racking red wine barrels, we routinely combine the lees (the yeast and grape solids which collect at the bottom of the barrels) into empty barrels to recover more wine from them. These “tipping” barrels are left for a month or so to clarify, then racked again. This process is repeated as the lees are repeatedly racked off until there is one remaining barrel of superb red wine.” Each vintage is different and the quantities of each grape is unknown. The 2007, for example, took 56 months and a careful selection process starting with 183 barrels resulted in the four barrels of extraordinary Lost Barrel 2007 wine.
All four wines had aged well – there was some concern that the 2001 might lose its luster quickly after opening (something that happens sometimes with wines that have been aged for many years), but it was still going strong even after decanting. The 2001 may have been the least favourite of the four (though as Paul Dearborn pointed out, picking a least favourite was like saying you had a least favourite child), but it still had a vibrant nose with lots of fruit, smokey meat and a nice, smooth mouth feel.
The 2002 was the smoothest of the four and one of the overall favourites of the table. The nose was far less vibrant than the others, but it had aged quite nicely with excellent balance and structure. I was told it was an excellent pairing with the beef cheek.
My personal favourite was the 2004, which was a close second when I polled the table for the wine they liked best. It was still so fresh, vibrant and tannic. I liked the long finish and would love to have had this with a mushroom dish because it had a lovely earthy quality.
The 2007, which was one of the best wines I tasted in 2013 showed well, but we all agreed that it just needed more age and/or more time to open up. One of the things I love about Lost Barrel wines is how they change so much over time in the glass and the 2007 is such a fantastic example of this. The wine starts out with a fruity nose, morphs into something more smoky and then begins to show hints of chocolate and coffee as time progresses. It’s such a stunning lesson on how wine is a living, breathing entity even once it’s out of the bottle.
Overall, each of the wines was wonderful and I was thrilled to have been able to be a part of this tasting. If you had put any one of the Lost Barrel wines in a glass in front of me without the others to compare them to, I would have enjoyed each one on its own merit. Being able to study them side by side was a rare treat and a chance to really strengthen my understanding of wine development.
Many thanks to Creekside Estate Winery, Gary Killops and all the wonderful wine friends who pitched in to make our Lost Barrel tasting an affordable event. And a huge shout-out to Treadwell Restaurant, which is without a doubt one of the best places to eat in Niagara.