Organized Wine Crime

Organized Wine Crime

Many assume that the LCBO’s control of the wine business in Ontario is an outgrowth of the anti-alcohol movement in the ’30s—to protect us from demon alcohol. Not really. Government took control to take organized crime out of the booze business during Prohibition and reap the tax rewards for its citizens. Who knew that this monopoly would end up being obtrusive and demanding in the manufacture and purveyance of a legal product in Ontario—at least as perceived by many who toil to make a living in the wine business.

It’s for this reason that I love the irony, whether intended or not, of the name of the new Niagara winery Organized Crime. It purportedly refers to a much more gentle antiquated, folksy tale of a feud between Mennonite congregations in Niagara (Mennonites feud—who knew?) which resulted in one congregation heisting a pipe organ from the other’s church and throwing it down an embankment.

This is all good fun, and this kind of irreverence on wine labels is all the rage right now. Organized Crime is the product of one marketing mind named Bernie Hadley-Beauregard of Brandever Strategy Inc. who has created other catchy wine brands in B.C. (Blasted Church) and Niagara (Megalomaniac). Creatively branding wine can be refreshingly playful, maybe even memorable, but whenever marketing overshadows content this critic’s antennae go nuts. And having tasted the debut range of Organized Crime, I am left to ponder the long-term viability of a cute name in this very competitive market.

The wines are largely good and clean, lively and expressive of their varietal (grape) content, if a bit expensive for the quality therein. There is a shallowness, a dilution of grape flavour in some that makes one yawn, and washes out some of the reason to have so many different varietal labels—especially the sauvignon blanc and viognier. This could be due to the 2006 vintage (a tough, wet year in the region) and/or it could be from young vines on the property, with all wines being estate grown in the Beamsville Bench appellation by owners Jan and Krystyna Tarasewicz.

One wine—their 2006 Gewürztramineris—is among the best I’ve ever tasted from Ontario, and suggests older vines due to its concentration. Someone in the organization recognized this fact and priced it at $22. I suspect that someone is winemaker Andrzej Lipinski, the itinerant (Legends, Fielding, De Sousa, Megalomaniac) hired gun oenologist consultant with a sensibility for crafting very vibrant wines, whites in particular.

Here are my notes on the wines, only available from the winery.

Organized Crime 2006 Gewurztraminer ($22.00, 89 points) Fairly deep colour. Big, rich, classic nose of lychee, white pepper, grapefruit, rosewater and lime. Full bodied, a touch sweet, powerful yet lively. Quite exciting with excellent length showing mandarin, spice, ginger tea on the finish. The nicely restrained alcohol content (11.6%) means most power is coming from the fruit.

Organized Crime 2006 Chardonnay Reserve ($25.00, 87 points) Quite deep yellow-gold colour. Very ripe sweet peach, butterscotch, tobacco, cashew aromas. Full bodied, sweet and loaded with nutmeg, butter and wood resin. Quite dry, almost tannic on the finish, with a sweet butter toffee note and a lingering lemon. Very good to excellent length.

Organized Crime 2006 Chardonnay Unoaked ($18.00, 86 points) Quite rich, lifted nose of peach, chive and hot garlic bread. Medium-full bodied with 13.4% alcohol providing roundness and viscosity, plus heat on the finish A touch sweet; very good fruit length. Quite powerful, but a bit overdone but effective.

Organized Crime 2006 Chardonnay Musqué ($15.00, 86 points) This is pale, fresh and clean with fairly lifted tones of lavender and licorice. Quite full, juicy and a touch sweet on the palate, with a tart lime-like finish. Very good length.

Organized Crime 2006 Viognier ($16.00, 84 points) Why do a musqué and viognier when they are so similar in presentation? Very mild aromatic nose with a touch of starfruit and fennel-like spice. Simple but clean. Mid-weight, lean, tart, mineral, musky style. Good length.

Organized Crime 2006 Pinot Gris ($17.00, 84 points) Pours pale straw-grey in colour typical of pinot gris. Soft, mild, fruity nose of cooked apple with a touch of fennel and vanilla. Some sulphur as well. Hits the palate with considerable sweetness, fresh acidity and moderate alcohol. Lemony finish. Good length.

Organized Crime 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($16.00, 83 points) Light, papery nose with a touch of lime, herbs, green pepper. Varietally accurate but not very distinguished. Quite mild on the palate; with high acid and alcohol, lime and peppery notes. Peppery, lean, dry and hot finish.

Organized Crime 2006 Riesling ($17.00, NR) Needs re-tasting before review and rating.