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There is no questioning winemaker Ilya Senchuk’s deep love for Pinot Noir; it is the heart and soul of his stylish portfolio of wines at Leaning Post.

It’s not all Senchuk, pictured above, makes at the new(ish) Winona winery, but it is his first love. And this spring, consumers will get the chance to taste and buy three Pinots from opposite ends of the Niagara Peninsula from two different vintages as Leaning Post releases a trio of wines.

Leaning Post started as a virtual winery in Niagara with Senchuk crafting Pinots, Riesling, Syrahs and Chardonnays from select vineyards in his favourite sub-appellations in Niagara. When he and his wife Nadia decided to plant grapes on their farmhouse property a couple of years ago in tiny Winona, they became eligible to become a full-fledged winery and dove head-first into the market.

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A cosy new tasting room and winemaking facility was built and the Senchuks are now busy churning out a top-notch portfolio of wines that includes Gamay along with different Chardonnays, Rieslings, Syrahs and Pinot Noirs from carefully selected terroirs in Niagara.

The Pinots being released include both the Lowrey Vineyard (St. David’s Bench) 2011 and 2012 as well as the McNally Vineyard (Beamsville Bench) 2012 sourced from the Peninsula Ridge vineyard. The two vineyards couldn’t be farther apart and the wines all bring something a little different to the party.

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First of all there is the difference in vintages — 2011 was a little cooler, or a more “classic vintage,” as Senchuk calls it. “It was a bit of a problem child, and not an easy vintage that required a lot of thinning, dropping of fruit and cutting out of rot,” he said, as we tasted through the wines recently.

Senchuk puts 2011 somewhere between cool 2009 (which ended being a great vintage for Pinot in Niagara) and 2010 (an extremely hot vintage).

The 2012 vintage for Pinot Noir was “a long, warmish season that has some of the same characteristics of previous vintages, but more of it,” says Senchuk.

“In the long term, the 2012s will be the best Pinots I have done.”

Of course, it all depends on what style you like — delicate, lighter, pure red fruits (2011) or Pinots that are funkier, meatier, with more structure (2012).

Which makes it very exciting to taste all three side by side and come to your own conclusions.

Here are my notes on the three Pinots (the 2011 Lowrey is available at the winery now with the 2012s being released in April).

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Leaning Post Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 ($38, available now, 92 points) — The 2011s at Leaning Post are made with a little less new French oak than the 12s at 30% new, 40% one-year-old barrels and the rest older barrels. The vintage was cooler than 2012 or 2010 and offers more classic Pinot aromas of cherry and raspberry fruit, lighter spice notes with underbrush, mushrooms and a floral note. Senchuk describes the nose on this St. David’s Bench Pinot as “earthy-stinky, which is what I like.” It has a gorgeous, luxurious mouth-feel with persistent red fruits, spice and silky tannins that give the wine a delicate feel through the finish. It has great finesse and verve, with potential to evolve further.

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Leaning Post Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 ($42, spring release, 91 points) — As mentioned, 2012 is a warm vintage, which gives more forwardness to this Pinot. The nose reveals cherry, strawberry and rhubarb fruit with a meaty, earthy, spicy edge that is rocking from the get-go. It is deeper, more concentrated than 2011 with flavours of warm cherry-rhubarb pie, lovely swirling spices with a more structured feel, and more concentration through the finish.

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Leaning Post McNally Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 ($50, April release, 92 points) — The most voluptuous Pinot of the three with super-ripe cherry fruit, strawberry, fruitcake, lovely oak spices and vanilla. Senchuk believes the 12s will improve with bottle age and become more complex as they age. On the palate, look for mature showy cherry fruit, pomegranate, a touch of cassis and bramble with more flesh and structure than the other two Pinots. It’s a Pinot with both weight and finesse and good length through the finish.

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Top Niagara wines at Vintages March 7

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There are some nice Niagara wines being released at Vintages on Saturday (March 7). Leading the charge is Thomas Bachelder’s second bottling of the Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay from the 2011 vintage. Here’s what to look forward to on Saturday.

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Winfield Block Chardonnay 2011 Niagara ($45, 92 points, only available at flagship stores) — The Wismer Chard from Bachelder was a blockbuster in 2010 and the 2011 isn’t far off that form. It’s quite tight at the moment (original review posted August, 2013) but still reveals poached pear, spice, nougat, hazelnut, toast and flinty minerality with just a pinch of citrus zest in the background. It’s complex and juicy yet maintains a graceful feel in the mouth while exposing an array of fruit, spice and minerality. Gorgeous.

Tawse Sketches Riesling 2013 ($18, 89 points) — The Sketches Riesling is a blend of fruit sourced from sustainably-farmed vineyards in Niagara. The nose is expressive with grapefruit, lime and mineral notes. It’s taut and lively on the palate with fresh lemon-lime, a touch of sweetness and laser-sharp acidity.

Fielding Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($15, 88 points) — Pure, fresh aromas of crisp apple, citrus and melon. It’s refreshing on the palate with clean, bright fruits. Simple and delicious.

No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason DziverRosewood Select Series Merlot 2012 ($22, 90 points) — The fruit for this wine is sourced from three premium vineyards on the Beamsville and Twenty Mile Bench. The nose shows a rich concentration of plums, cassis, cherry, nutmeg and oak spices. It shows the hallmarks of the vintage on the palate with a lavish display of black fruits and black cherry with an abundance of spice and ripe tannins. Wonderful Merlot and offered at a bargain price.

Other wines released but not reviewed:

  • Calamus Reserve Riesling 2012 ($19)
  • Featherstone Four Feathers 2012 ($15)
  • Malivoire Pinot Gris 2013 ($20)
  • 13th Street Gamay Noir 2012 ($20)
  • The Good Earth Cabernet Franc 2012 ($21)