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The dog days (or sheep days, if you prefer) of this long, hot summer continue with another meager offering of local wines at the Vintages release Saturday at LCBO stores.

Only six Niagara wines hit the shelves and Wines In Niagara has only tasted and reviewed one of them. We offer that as our top recommendation plus reviews for a couple of new releases from Henry of Pelham, a first look at the Similkameen Valley’s newest winery — Vanessa Vineyard, and three value wines from Portugal.

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Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2015 ($17, 91 points) — This is the “signature” white wine made at the farm. Out of a 6,000-7,000 case production, up 2,800 cases are Riesling, so “this is a big deal for us,” says co-owner Louis Engels. “We could make Riesling all day long. It is simplicity at its best.” Featherstone’s Riesling has always maintained a style that is consistent vintage to vintage with alcohol below 10%. The nose shows a bright profile of lime, grapefruit, sherbet and apple in a fresh and vibrant style. It is light and refreshing on the palate with a playful tug of sweet and tart citrus and orchard fruit on the palate. Lovely balance and clean through the finish.

Other Niagara wines being released, but not reviewed:

  • Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($25)
  • Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling 2014 ($18)
  • Fielding Red Conception 2013 ($19)
  • Flat Rock Red Twisted 2012 ($25)

Other wines enjoyed recently from Niagara,
Similkameen Valley in B.C. and Portugal

Niagara

Henry of Pelham Riesling 2015 ($15, winery, 87 points) — This is from the “classic tier” at Henry of Pelham, with the fruit sourced from around Niagara. The nose shows lemon, lime, minerals and bright apple notes. There is a touch of sweetness on the palate with a concentration of citrus and racy acidity. Friendly and delicious.

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Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2014 ($20, winery, 88 points) — From the estate’s Short Hills Bench appellation, the nose shows creamy pear, vanilla, oak spice and subtle citrus notes. It’s round and mellow on the palate with an abundance of pear, apple and spice notes.

Similkameen Valley

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Vanessa Vineyard is an up-and-coming winery situated on a hillside overlooking the Similkameen Valley, comprised of 75 acres of rocky terrain.

The vineyards were planted in 2006 with the fruit primarily being sold for Sandhill Wines, Peller Estate’s premium Okanagan winery. In 2012, owners Suki Sekhon and John Welson transitioned from grape growers to vintners and began crafting small quantities of Syrah and Meritage.

The wines debuted in April in B.C.

Here are my reviews for both the Syrah and Meritage.

2012-vanessa-vineyard-meritageVanessa Vineyard Meritage 2012 ($31, 91 points) — The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. A combination of U.S. and French oak (60% new) was used for aging, six months before blending, followed by 12 months. An impressive nose of black currants, blackberries, smoky cedar, tobacco and toasted oak spices. It is firm and structured on the palate with a rich broth of dark fruits, elegant spice and vanilla notes and length through the finish.

2012-vanessa-vineyard-syrahVanessa Vineyard Syrah 2012 ($34, 92 points) — This is a beauty with classic notes of bacon fat, deli meat, leather, blueberry pie, plums, boysenberry and gobs of cracked black pepper and a range of other spices. It is highly complex on the palate, but defined by smooth, silky tannins, rich and savoury dark fruits, pepper and lavish spice notes. Lovely Syrah.

Portugal

cq5dam.web.1280.1280-1JP Azeitão Branco 2015 ($9, 86 points) — Still celebrating Portugal’s thrilling Euro Cup campaign? This friendly little white, with a fruity profile of apple, peach and lemon with a zesty finish, can help with that. Nothing too complicated, just fresh and fruity from sniff to swallow.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280JP Azeitão Tinto 2015 ($9, 85 points) — Like its sister above, the red version is user friendly with a nose of black raspberry, pepper, spice and jammy black currants. The palate shows sweet red and dark berries with pepper and licorice notes.

Alianca Vino Verde 2014 ($9, 87 points) — In keeping with the sub-$10 price range, here’s another white that offers fairly good value. The nose show lime, white peach, zippy citrus and green apple. It’s zesty on the palate with citrus and tropical fruits in a refreshing, simply style.