WBW #32 Regular vs. Reserve: Hillebrand's Harvest Cabernet-Merlot vs. Trius Red 2004

After missing the last installment of WBW because of technical difficulties, I found myself on vacation for WBW 32 (Guess what readers? WBW 33 is going to be on MY schedule since I'm hosting -- hope you'll perticipate with me in May).

Anyhow, despite being on vacation for the last 12 days, I managed to get an entry ready for WBW 32. At the time I prepared it I thought did some good scrambling and interesting blogging. But there is a but. I will wait to broach it at the end of this post.

The folks at the Wine Cask came up with a keen idea for today's event. It took a little extra time and effort: open two wines that in some way have a regular/reserve relationship with each other. The big brother and the baby brother, as I like to call them.

I found two Niagara Peninsula wines that suited this challenge. (After all, I was in Niagara for part of my vacation.) Rather than regular/reserve, they were basic brand/higher-end brand. An entry-level Bordeaux-style wine from Hillebrand Estates Winery and a fairly similarly styled effort issued under the winery's more prestigious label called Trius. (Trius is a name developed and owned by Hillebrand, so these sibling bottles go out of their way to look strikingly different. Happens in almost every family these days.)

But it doesn't matter how they look. These two are the same vintage, made of the same grapes, and produced by the same winemaking team. The only significant difference we got here is price. Or roughly $10-15 for the Harvest (depending on where you buy it), compared to $20.15 for the Trius.

Or least that's the only significant difference until they are tasted.

Hillebrand Estates Harvest Cabernet-Merlot 2004: quite woody, deserves some mellowing to bring forward its nice Cabernet Sauvignon imprint. Overall is thin but just fine with a Sunday dinner of roast beef, with roasted potatoes and carrots and mashed acorn squash.

Hillebrand Estates Trius Red 2004: fruitier with loads of red berries and a pinch of vanilla, immediately convinces as a more integrated Cabernet-Merlot blend. Fine tannins, nice length and structure. Like the Harvest it is drink now. Spicy notes and cedar contribute to its profile too, making it perfect for barbecue fare. We had seared strip loin in mushrooms and shallots, with caramelized zucchini coins and buttered potatoes with chives.

I preferred the upscale version, and furthermore, its more expensive combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot was to me a better value. For as little as $5 more, you are getting a lot more elegance.

A successful and worthwhile exercise! But I warned you that there was a but. I found a photo of Trius readily available online so I went back to the Harvest bottle to take my own photographs of it. Suddenly I see the fine print on the label, which says the wine was cellared in Canada. Beware all you Ontario wine drinkers of the dreaded "Cellared in Canada" line. (Click on the photo at top left to enlarge the label). This cellaring business means that the grapes are partially or almost all imported!

I can't believe I played by the rules all the way for WBW 32 only to now find that I've basically been comparing cheap Chilean grapes to "VQA" Niagara harvests. VQA is a seal of quality that guarantees the origin of the grapes as Canadian. I should've been more careful to look for the VQA seal but I guess I was too preoccupied with all the other WBW criteria to notice. What a mistake! Hopefully, this post can serve some purpose to others (and maybe help convince Niagara wineries that imported grapes aren't measuring up to the real thing anyway!)


Joe said...

Cellared in Canada...I think I will put that on all the wines in my cellar...!

Marcus said...

I believe that would be accurate usage sanctioned by current regulations.

I used to think that people who wound up with Cellared in Canada bottles should blame themselves for ignorance and for not looking for the VQA label. I guess I can't support that statement anymore since it's happened to me!

Lenn said...


Thanks for participating...ready to host #33? Email me when you can at lenndevours@gmail.com

Marcus said...

I am ready to host.

Stay tuned folks.

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