For a steep cost, that is.
In my tasting notes for wines in the column, I often mention how long a wine will age in a cellar. But, the reality is that no matter how serious you get about wine, most of us will never have the ideal wine cellar. If you have the room in your home, wine fridges are great.
But where can the rest of us store our prized bottles?
I recently had the opportunity to check out the Wine Academy, a private members club for wine aficionados overseen by Aaron Joseph Bear Robe. Located at 67 Richmond Street West, it is a discreet establishment—its entrance is a large wooden door next to a Subway franchise, and it’s only accessible by scanning your fingerprint.
The price of membership is $1,500 a year, so it’s not ideal for casual wine drinkers. But for an additional $150 a month, you can rent a locker in its massive wine cellar with enough room to store 92 bottles. If you’re in the process of building a collection and don’t have ideal storage it’s hard to beat a state-of-the-art cellar with a backup generator in case the power goes out.
The Wine Academy does ride a fine line between pretentious and pedestrian—memberships are expensive and therefore not as accessible for casual drinkers. But the Academy will be adding regular tastings and wine classes for members, so if you have the financial means you will feel welcome at the Academy, regardless of your wine knowledge.
The wine list is still under construction for the space, but if you’re renting a locker you’re more likely to be enjoying your own bottles with offerings from the kitchen. My hat goes off to the Wine Academy kitchen—it’s incredibly difficult to plan a menu to pair with wines when your diners could be drinking anything. The menu right now is heavy on fish, and every plate has a palate-cleansing element. A highlight is smoked trout served with crunchy fried artichokes and little bits of citrus on the plate. You can expect the menu to change seasonally.
The Wine Academy is definitely aiming for exclusivity with the membership fee and the minimum signage. However, the facility is impressive and for someone with a growing collection of prized bottles.
Meanwhile, if the Academy is out of your reach, here are some bottles you can enjoy from home this weekend.
2009 Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling – Vintages 383315 – $29.95 – ****
Let me introduce this wine into evidence for my mounting case that we should be drinking sparkling wine all year round and without any special occasions. Thirty dollars may push the wine out of the everyday drinking price range, but for a sparkling wine of this quality from France you would be paying much more. This wine is all citrus and apple with bright crisp acidity on the finish. Aromas of baking bread surround the fruit flavours as they rise out of the glass. This wine is very food friendly and will pair with just about anything you can cook. However, it will be exceptional with grilled chicken, creamy pasta, or seafood.
2014 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué – Vintages 246579 – $16.95 – ***1/2+
If you are expecting your typical chardonnay with this wine, think again. The musqué means that it’s not quite what you think it is. I find it easier to compare musqué to gewürztraminer than to chardonnay. The aromas on this wine offer white flower over melon and citrus. The floral aromas and flavours are what define this grape. This is a perfect wine to match with spicy Asian cuisine or Indian curries.
2014 Lighthall Progression – Vintages 468090 – $20.00 – ****
This is the perfect bubbly for the patio. The nose is bright clean citrus. The flavours are citrus with white flower. There is nothing too complicated about this wine—it just tastes good. The finish is clean and crisp just as you would expect from a well-put-together sparkling wine. But this wine has an interesting twist: it is made with vidal. The grape that is used to make Icewine is finding a home in sparkling wine in Prince Edward County. We now have fantastic value sparkling wines coming from Hinterland and Lighthall made with this grape. Don’t let the price on this wine fool you: it is fantastic to open regardless of the occasion. Given the fact that this can pair with just about anything you want to put on the table, there really is no reason to keep this bottled up.
2014 Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir – Vintages 125310 – $45.20 – ****1/2
The nose on this wine is perfumed with plenty of violet climbing out of the glass, but buried underneath all those flowers you find ripe cherry. Honestly, if you aren’t taking a minute to absorb the nose on this wine before your first sip, you’re doing it wrong. When you take your first sip you are greeted with the nose in reverse with fresh cherry taking over your palate and violet flavours that fill your whole mouth. Beautiful acidity keeps this light on the palate and a nice long elegant floral finish. Simply put, this wine is fantastic and may be the best County Pinot Norm has made to date.