Algonquin Backcountry camping

‘There is nothing more relaxing than overlooking the sunset while sipping fine wine.’

Just this past August long weekend, together with 4 others, I went to Algonquin Provincial Park to do backcountry canoe camping. All of us being seasoned campers, including a six-year-old daughter of a buddy of mine, we packed light carrying only few things meant to enhance our experience, but that we could do without. Though most foods were dried (noodle soup, seasoned rice/potatoes or pasta, granola bars, drink powders etc.), some were semi dried and quite worth the weight to carry – these included: beef jerky (homemade), fruit + nut mix, mangos, cranberry/nut bread and of course salami and hard cheeses. The things that we could do without (of course not counting wine and crystal wine glasses) included a glow stick, candles, cards (we didn’t use), mattress pump, hatchet and saw (quite unnecessary during a fire ban).


‘Moose feeding on water lilies at dusk.’

It is amazing that all it takes is 3.5 hour drive from Toronto and one portage to get into pristine nature, where the amount of canoes you see per day may equal to the number of moose you see on your trip. As my European friends and colleagues tell me, we Canadians are truly lucky to have such natural beauty within our reach. We saw quite a few wild animals including moose, loons, herons, squirrels, mice, fish and leeches and fortunately were able to avoid wolves, coyotes and bears. During one of our day trips, we found a pile of bones that turned out to be the remains of a moose just lying spread out on a rock.


‘Moose remains laying where it died after being stripped of flesh. (skull was in the water).’

Since it was quite dry, Algonquin Park was under a fire ban, so instead of having the option to watch the fire and the stars, we could only watch the stars. The site we found had an easy access to the lake with many flat rocks gently tilted towards the water. We put our sleeping mats on the rocks and watched the sunset, the stars and the moon rise. Now, you may say a weekend packed with tranquility though exciting at the same time, that wine was not needed and you may very well be right. It is true that wine or any other alcohol was not NEEDED, but it surely enhanced the experience. Lying on those rocks overlooking the lake while sipping on a beautiful, intensely aromatic glass of wine, full of various berries, with notes of oak, vanilla and toast, having a long lingering finish with mouth-watering acidity and refined tannins – all combined into a perfect harmony and balance. Now just imagine that and let it stay with you for a moment and then tell me that wine was NOT needed. 🙂
As it turns out, the three wines that I brought were in essence quite a bit similar, which is something that I noticed while already at the campsite. All were intensely aromatic, integrated, with great structures and long finishes – attributes that I specifically chose for the camping; they also were medium to full-bodied and quite influenced by aging in oak – aspects that I knew of, but didn’t consider. Below are the wines I brought:


This full-bodied, nicely complex, 2007 Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Merlot has nice aromas of fruity to INTEGRATED notes of black cherry, prune, pronounced smoke, cut hay, oak, emerging leather and vanilla. It is tannic (decant for 1 hour or more) and the finish is long, nicely balanced and with some heat. It is best to lay it down for next several years, best 2015 – 2020. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 93 pts – I highly recommend this wine, especially if you can age it as suggested. Originally reviewed Nov/10.


The 2005 Laborum Syrah, aged in oak for 12 months, is a medium to full-bodied, FRUITY to integrated wine, with intense aromas of ripe coffee and cedar on the nose and blackberry and black cherry on the palate. It has a nice structure with refined tannins (decant for 15-30 min) and a long finish, though a bit alcoholic. Drink now-2018. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 91.5 pts – highly recommended wine. Originally reviewed Feb/12.


The 2001 Coto De Imaz Gran Reserva, composed of 100% Tempranillo and aged in French and American oak for 24 months, is a medium bodied, integrated to aged wine, with intense aromas of red berries, cherry, vanilla, coconut, toasted oak and faint leather. It has a nice structure with refined tannins (decant for 15-30 min) and an extra long finish, making it an ideal sipping wine (don’t waste it with food, cherish it). It is ready to drink now and will last for at least another 5+ years. My impression: BEAUTIFUL to DIVINE, 92+ points – this is the best traditional Rioja that LCBO has released in at least a year.  Originally reviewed June/12.


One thing I realized that when away from controlled environment, in order to have the most enjoyable experience, wines should be intensely aromatic, medium to full-bodied and with integrated fruit – not too young nor too aged.  They should also have great structures with refined tannins and good acidity.  So what I am getting at and what I already mentioned in my previous post ‘Of Camping and Wine‘ is that top quality wine is a must when going backcountry camping.


‘A bit of civilization away from civilization – fine wine in a crystal wine glass. Cheers!’


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