It’s the tail end of November and so I guess it’s time to dig out my old and well-worn “I HEART Beaujolais” T-shirt. Despite perhaps having been a little snobby about Beaujolais Nouveau over the years, I’ll admit that I have recently very-much warmed to the idea of a well-made, easy-drinking Gamay, served just a little chilled.
So it was with great pleasure I sat down to taste the Hair Of The Dog, an Ontario Gamay Nouveau from first-time “Winemaker” André Proulx… well, he’s not really the Winemaker, as that comes down to Vadim Chelekhov, as you’ll come to understand.
What started off as an early evening tasting of the stuff turned into a situation where I had emptied the entire bottle and found myself craving more… now that is quite the endorsement if ever there were one.
This week we threw some questions at the man himself about this extremely enjoyable bottling.
Good Food Revolution: So you have chosen to make a Gamay Nouveau from Niagara… and, don’t get me wrong here, it is rather delicious… but I wonder what drove you to make such a wine?
André Proulx: This is not a simple question. It does involve consuming a lot of wine over the past few years.
In 2014 I visited France to discover some new wines and to see how they celebrate the release of Nouveau. I tasted everything I could get my hands on in Paris and then spent a few days in Beaujolais. There were some very good wines that just aren’t making their way here. I liked Nouveau before visiting Beaujolais but I left the region loving it.
I had an idea, but really no way of executing it.
Then I bumped into Vadim Chelekhov at Cuvée in February. It was towards the end of the night and I told him that I was thinking about doing this, but I wasn’t sure how or when. He approached me a couple weeks later and asked me if we were going to follow through with making the wine
Imagine in your mind this is where the Ocean’s Eleven montage would take place. We agreed if we were going to do this it would have to be on a scale so we could do the style justice. So we assembled a team to round out the team with the muscle, finance, and the brains.
The ultimate goal from this project was to give everyone involved an opportunity to learn. It gave Vadim and Rosewood an opportunity to see how well we could make Nouveau. It gave me an opportunity to see what is involved with getting a wine from grape to bottle to restaurant.
We all signed on to the project knowing that it could have been a disaster and we would have had a tank of bubblegum flavoured plonk.
GFR: Please tell us a bit about the wine’s vinification?
AP: This is where Vadim gets full credit. When we lined up the pieces of the puzzle to make the wine and we agreed there would be no compromise in the winemaking.
No compromise meant waiting until October 19th for harvest when the fruit hit 22 brix.
There was 2 days of carbonic maceration followed by 2 weeks of fermentation on skins. We did inoculate with a strain of yeast (RB4) which is made for Nouveau and we let the wine ferment until it was as dry as possible. By best estimate we have 5-7 g/l residual sugar (I’m still waiting for my lab results from VQA).
GFR: And with 2015 being such a short crop for so many, how the hell did you get your hands on this Wismer vineyard fruit?
AP: I’m still trying to figure this one out. Vadim is our crazy Russian captain and pulled off this miracle. We are very thankful to Craig Wismer for giving us the fruit to work with.
GFR: So how much did you actually make?
AP: We have approximately 60 cases give or take a few bottles.
GFR: Nouveau gets such a bad name, but I have always felt that drunk in context (and nicely chilled) it can be a fantastic and enjoyable tipple. Thoughts?
AP: I couldn’t agree more. I look forward to the Nouveau release to throw together some food and get people around the dinner table in my house. You never have to worry about things getting too snobby when you’re pouring a glass or 5 of Nouveau.
GFR: And how would you choose to pair this up with food?
AP: My favourite food pairing for this wine would be pizza. Honestly the acidity from the wine would cut right through the grease from a pizza hut Canadian pan pizza if we are really getting specific. One pairing that I have been looking forward to since my visit to Beaujolais last year is picking up some Oysters and shucking a few with some Nouveau. The pairing might seem a little odd but if you’ve never tried it it’s completely worth it.
GFR: And the name… Hair of The Dog? Where did that stem from?
AP: My dog Henri is pretty much my favourite person who walks on four legs. I felt he deserved to have his mug on a bottle. As far as the expression “Hair of the Dog” is concerned, it’s supposed to be a cure for a hangover… let’s face it calling a Nouveau Hair of the Dog may come off to some as a little ironic.
GFR: Is this your first foray into winemaking or is there a history there?
AP: A long time ago I bought one of those kits with my dad and brother and we followed all the instructions only to make 100 bottles of almost undrinkable plonk. Ever since that experiment I decided to leave winemaking to the professionals. However, as I’ve been getting more and more serious about what I’m drinking and more curious about local wines I wanted to learn more about what goes into the bottle. For full disclosure, I did get my hands dirty but the winemaking was really handled by Vadim. We worked together to make sure that we had the right pieces together to make the best wine possible.
GFR: And what do you see as your future plans with hair of the dog?
AP: I haven’t thought that far ahead. The honest truth about this project was to do something with some friends and have a few bottles as a by-product. People have been pretty responsive to the brand so we will have to see what fruit we can line up in the future. There has been talk of doing a sparkling wine called “The Cat’s Meow” because we have a few more pets that need to be honored on a label. Nothing has been too serious at this point.
GFR: Now that you have people’s attention, where can our readers access this most quaffable of wines?
AP: You can email directly at email@example.com to handle orders. We have a simple website www.hairofthedogwine.com with a larger photo of Henri the dog for your viewing pleasure as well.
GFR: Thanks André, good work!
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s going to grab a six pack.