And what an exciting year for Niagara wines it was.
Not only did we say good-bye to 2010, what promises to be Niagara’s greatest vintage yet, but we were able to enjoy some spectacular wines across a wide-spectrum of varieties.
The best of the 2007 Bordeaux varieties and blends wines were released, and, wow, they are simply amazing (stock up!). Also making waves were the 2008 Chardonnays, spectacular 2009 Rieslings just arriving on shelves, aromatic whites (especially Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc) and some very fine Pinot Noirs from top producers.
Narrowing down the year-end Top 10 most exciting Niagara wines of the year is always a difficult task. Tasting notes are scoured for the wines that were top scorers (all scoring 4.5 to 5 stars) and memorable looking back on the reviews.
The list is broken into Top 10 reds and whites, with a red and white Wine of the Year. So, here it is. Let the debate begin!
The Top 10 Reds:
Three red wines reviewed in 2010 (Hidden Bench La Brunante, Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon and Pillitteri Sparking Cabernet Icewine) received a perfect 5 stars, but it was the Stratus Red 2007 that took the top spot on this list. It is simply the best Niagara red I drank in 2010 after trying it several times. It only gets better as it ages and should be a wine that is stuffed down in the cellar to enjoy years from now. What a wine!
Here’s the list, starting with the Red Wine of the Year and listing alphabetically after that (original reviews and scores included).
Stratus Red 2007 ($44, 4.5-5 stars) — The flagship red assemblage from Stratus, with a decadent nose of persistent red and black fruits, cinnamon and cloves. It shows juicy acidity in the mouth with an emerging array of fruits and spice yet maintains its youthful restraint.
Chateau des Charmes Equuleus 2007 ($40, 4.5-5 stars) — The nose is a nice collage of aromatics from cassis and currants to leather, a wild raspberry note, mocha, top grade oak, spice and smoke. It’s rich and flavourful in the mouth, with chewy dark fruits, gripping tannins, waves of cocoa and spice and a long finish.
Fielding Estate Syrah 2007 ($45, 4.5 stars) — A thrilling red for fans of Rhone-style Syrah with aromas of roasted meats, blueberry, wildberry, leather, smoke, creosote and game that comes at you in wave after wave. The dark fruits on the palate are joined by mint,Â liquorice, tar and smoky oak notes.
Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet-Merlot 2007 ($50, 4.5 plus stars) — Such deep earth tones, raspberry, cherry and blackberry fruit smothered in the elegance of oak on the nose. This big red is spectacular in the mouth with blackberry, red fruits, licorice, roasted coffee bean, dusty tannins that’s all layered and structured.
Hidden Bench La Brunante 2007 ($85, 5 stars) — There are a lot of platitudes to heap on this wine, so let’s just start by saying it’s a huge red with a nose that doesn’t quit giving concentrated currants, blackberry, mocha, oak and spice notes. The fruit rages on the palate with tar, leather, velvety texture, ripe tannins and length on the finish.
Andrew Peller Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($38, 4.5 stars) — The nose shows fragrant blackberry, raspberry, oak, toast and spice. It rocks on the palate with thick, rich and concentrated fruits and firm tannic structure.
Pillitteri Exclamation Cabernet Franc 2007 ($35, 4.5 stars) — Blackberry and cherry fruits jump from the glass with touches of cigar leaf, roasted coffee bean, spice and oak. Rich red fruits emerge on the palate to go with plush tannins, vanilla, cocoa and spice.
Pillitteri Sparkling Cabernet Icewine 2008 (originally priced at $80 for 375 Ml, 5 stars) — Raspberry, cherry, sweet apple all perched on an electric frame of fresh acidity that keeps it dancing on the palate.
Tawse Lauritzen Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 ($45, 4.5 stars) — Sweet black cherry/raspberry fruits, vanilla and soft oak on the nose. In the mouth, it’s delicate with notes of just-picked wild raspberry, bramble and soft spices to go with silky tannins and integrated oak.
Vineland Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc 2007 ($40, 4.5-5 stars) — Pure elegance on the nose and palate with blueberry, kirsch, raspberry, violets to match with rich spices, oak and a long, long finish.
The Top 10 Whites:
I have been blown away by the 2009 Rieslings coming out of both the Bench and Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries. But none thrilled me as much as the 2027 Cellars Riesling from the Fox Croft Vineyard. This virtual winery scored a home run with this White Wine of the Year.
2027 Cellars Fox Croft Vineyard 2009 Riesling ($25, 5 stars) — This is a phenomenal wine with grapefruit, petrol and crazy-beautiful citrus zest and minerals on the nose. It’s explosive on the palate with bracing acidity to go with citrus, underlying minerality, and a finish that goes on and on.
Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2008 ($30, 4.5 stars) — It’s tightly wound but still shows exotic tropical fruit aromas to go with profound talc and mineral notes. In the mouth it displays white peach, grapefruit, tropical and apple fruits that are playfully sweet and tart in the mouth.
Creekside Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($27, 4.5 stars) — Shows intense tropical/grapefruit/ gooseberry notes on the nose with a sprinkling of vanilla and oak. Not your typical and grassy Sauvignon Blanc, it is full bodied and vibrant with added oak-kissed spice.
Fielding Estate Rock Pile Pinot Gris 2009 ($26, 4.5 stars) — Ripe Bosc pear, apple and creamy-spicy notes on the nose. It’s a big and delicious, slightly off-dry Gris that invigorates the palate with apple, melon, pear and cream notes all supported by juicy acidity.
Five Rows Craft Wine Pinot Gris 2008 ($25, 4.5 stars) — Shows tropical, apple, pear and honey notes with structure on the palate, and a promise of aging beautifully.
Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2009 ($25, 4.5 stars) — The fresh lemon-lime-mineral profile is driven by bracing acidity and perfect balance. The honey notes are derived from a touch of botrytised fruit in the vineyard.
Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Gewurztraminer Icewine 2007 ($35 for 200 Ml, 4.5 stars) — The nose shows spicy, tropical fruits and floral notes with added ginger and grapefruit. The ginger’s pronounced on the palate with quince, candied fruit and grapefruit flavours coming after in layer after layer.
Lailey Vineyard Old Vines Chardonnay 2008 ($40, 4.5 stars) — An alluring nose of citrus, apple, pear, oak and exotic spice notes. Beautifully balanced in the mouth where this wine all comes together seamlessly.
Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2008 ($40, 4.5 stars) — Soft, mellow Chard with wonderful broad aromas of elegant oak, citrus zest, peach, flint, wet stone and vanilla. Just gorgeous in the mouth with a balanced attack of creamy fruit, mineral and integrated oak flavours.
Tawse Carly’s Block Riesling 2008 ($30, 4.5 stars) — Shows striking mineral, lime, citrus and peach notes on the nose. The palate reveals sharp grapefruit and lime fruit with a racy bead of minerality and zingy acidity that leaves you wanting more.