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New Niagara wine releases from Pondview and the 2009 Pinot Noirs from Coyote’s Run

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Watching a new winery go from first vintage to next vintage is exciting. It means they have successfully arrived and are starting to establish a style that, hopefully, plays on its strengths and diminishes the weaknesses in the portfolio.

A few lucky wineries, of those who brave the choppy waters of retail wine in an ever-competitive market, start with a strength and build on it.

Lou and Andriana Puglisi started their winery in the Four-Mile Creek appellation on Line 2 in Niagara-on-the-Lake on the strength of an excellent grape-growing program. They are long-time growers who made the leap into a full-fledged winery a year ago with a strong portfolio of VQA wines, including a barrel-fermented 2009 Chardonnay that picked up a silver medal at the Cuvee awards in its maiden vintage. That’s a pretty awesome beginning for the Pondview owners and their winemaker Fred DiProfio.

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Pondview Unoaked Chardonnay.

When I last tasted with Puglisi, his barrel-aged wines were still drawing the sweet spices from his new oak barrels and I was only offered a barrel sample of the Chardonnay.

During Cuvee this past winter, I tried the Chardonnay after it won its medal and was impressed with the quality.

But tasting it recently, after it has shed some of the baby fat that comes with youth, I was even more impressed. The wine has integrated beautifully and is just now showing its full potential.

Puglisi places the Pondview Chardonnay 2009 in the Bella Terra tier, the top tier in his portfolio (only two wines thus far in the lineup). It is completely sold out at the winery with a small allotment left for a Vintages release sometime later this year.

Here is a review along with notes on Pondview’s latest wines that I enjoyed during a recent tasting:

Pondview Bella Terra Chardonnay 2009 ($24, only at a future Vintages release, 92 points) — The wine was aged in 100% new, 60% French and 40% America oak for 12 months. It starts with rich, spicy vanilla, toast, apple tart and tropical-pear fruit on the nose. It’s rich and layered on the palate with integrated, yet well-defined fruit and spice that’s persistent and lingering through the finish.

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Pondview Dragonfly Pinot Grigio.

Pondview Dragonfly Pinot Grigio 2010 ($18, LCBO this fall, winery, 88 points) — The Puglisis made 600 cases of this wine, primarily destined for the LCBO, which needs 1,600 cases in three years. At $18, it’s among the highest-priced wines on the general list. This Grigio could easily be called Gris, even though it sees no oak. It has the fleshiness and style of what many in Niagara now refer to as Pinot Gris. But, this is the 2010 vintage, a big, hot year where ripening with all grapes was not a concern. This Grigio shows lush creamy peach, citrus and melon fruits on the nose. It’s fleshy and broad on the palate, with over 14% alcohol, but shows a zesty citrus note on the finish.

Pondview Unoaked Chardonnay Sur Lie 2010 ($17, winery 87 points) — A nose of green apple and lemon-lime. It’s quite dry on the palate with mouth-coating apple fruit, a touch of nuttiness to go with bright acidity.

Pondview Riesling 2010 ($16, winery, 89 points) — Aromas of quince, apple and lovely spice notes. It’s ripe and fleshy in an off-dry style with peach-orange flavours and a touch of ginger spice.

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Pondview Gewurz-Riesling.

Pondview Gewurztraminer-Riesling 2010 ($14, LCBO in September, winery now, 88 points) — Flower blossoms, grapefruit, citrus zest and tropical fruit aromas for starters in this 50-50 blend. It’s a rich fruit offering in the mouth, with sweet honey notes, tropical fruits and a touch of citrus zest for balance.

Pondview Gewurztraminer 2010 ($25, winery, 89 points) — A full-out nose of musk, rose petals, honey, grapefruit, tropical fruit and spice. A lovely, textured wine on the palate with soft honey-sweet fruits, clove spices and layers of pleasure.

Pondview Bella Terra Cabernet Franc 2009 ($28, winery only, 90 points) — This 09 Cab Franc, aged in a 50-50 blend of American and French oak, all new, for 12 months, has a nose of spicy nutmeg, savoury cherry, blackberry and currant fruit with some roasted herbs. It’s delicious on the palate with earthy-smoky red fruits,  toasted oak and spice through the finish.

Pondview Vidal Icewine 2010 ($40 for 375 Ml, winery only, 93 points) — A thrilling icewine with tropical fruits, honey, caramel, marzipan and dried sweet fruits on the nose. It’s super sweet, unctuous, rich and lavishly spiced on the palate with wonderful caramel-toffee notes to go with layers of fruit.

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Also tasted recently were the 2009 Pinot Noirs from Coyote’s Run in St. Davids.

This prodigious producer of excellent Pinot and Chardonnay (and other wines) has made five different Pinots in the wonderful 09 vintage, including four still wines — Red Paw, Black Paw single vineyard wines, a regular cuvee, a rare cuvee and a sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot that we won’t see for a while.

President of Coyote’s Run, Jeff Aubrey, backs the theory about the 2009 Pinot vintage being an excellent Pinot vintage in Niagara, though he also liked the bolder wines from 2007.

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The 2009 Coyote's Run Pinot lineup.

“We expected the worst and arguably got the best,” said Aubrey of the cool 2009 vintage that saw good, late-ripening heat at the end of the season.

Aubrey and winemaker David Sheppard liked the Pinot berries so much they decided to bottle a “rare” vintage cuvee reserved for only the best of the best in any given year.

I tasted through the four soon-to-be-released Pinots with Aubrey and Shepherd on the back deck of the winery recently. Here’s what I liked:

Coyote’s Run Estate Pinot Noir 2009 ($20, Vintages in the New Year, 87 points) — For now, this higher-volume Pinot is made from estate grapes and aged in all-French, old and new oak barrels. It shows defined cherry-raspberry fruit, cedar, spice and savoury-earthy notes on the nose. It’s juicy and ripe in the mouth with red fruits, silky tannins and great acidity. Fine wine for $20.

Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 ($25, Vintages and winery Sept. 10, 91 points) — Aubrey’s consistently favourite of the two single-vineyards, the Red Paw shows highly expressive creamy cherry fruit, spice, toasty cedar bits and some bramble-forest floor notes. Love the cherry pie flavours on the palate with touches of raspberry fruit, cedar, spice and roasted herbs.

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The 2010 Coyote's Run Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc.

Coyote’s Run Black Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 ($36, at the winery on Sept. 10, Vintages in November, 92 points) — The Black Paw vineyard only yields three tonnes per vintage of Pinot, the berries are smaller, they ripen before the other Pinot fruit on the estate and they usually have higher brix at harvest. It’s a gorgeously made wine with savoury cherry and strawberry fruit aromas to go with lovely spice and oak styling. It has wonderful texture in the mouth with raspberry, currants, plums, cassis and complex spice and oak. There’s a firmness to this wine and defined tannins that suggest improvement with time in the cellar.

Coyote’s Run Rare Vintage Pinot Noir 2009 ($50, only at the winery, 93 points) — The Rare Vintage wines are made only in the best vintages from the best fruit on the estate. Sheppard and Aubrey identify special barrels that make up the blend. They hit the nail on the head with this Pinot. A nose of bright black cherry, sweet vanilla spice, toast and persistent, elegant aromas that are absolutely beautiful. The palate shows ripe cherry and raspberry fruit with kirsch and bramble notes chiming in. It’s rich, stylish and harmonious in the mouth. Among the best Pinots tried from the 09 vintage.

Coyote’s Run Pinot Gris-Pinot Gris 2010 ($16, LCBO, 87 points) — A fruity nose of citrus, melon and apple. It’s dry and crisp in the mouth with fresh apple and citrus zest. Nice little porch sipper.

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