By Rick VanSickle
What are you pouring to usher in the New Year? We have 10 suggestions culled from the best Niagara sparkling wines we tasted this year.
Top 10 Niagara Sparkling Wines for 2016
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc 2011 ($45)
HoP’s top sparkler is made from hand-picked 100% estate Chardonnay from the Short Hills Bench. The best of the best juice is isolated, partially barrel fermented (20%) and then aged for 60 months in the bottle before being disgorged. Such a treat and always one of the top sparklers in Ontario. The nose shows lemon, toast, brioche, vanilla, apple and lime and pours a fine, persistent bead of bubbles. It’s bright and electric on the palate with flavours of lemon and lime, baked apple, toasted almond, spice with lovely freshness and finesse through the finish. Plenty of room to age and gain complexity and weight with time in the cellar.
Hidden Bench Natur Zero Dosage 2011 ($45)
For a first effort, albeit in the planning stages since 2004 when high-density grapes (Pinot/Chard) were planted specifically for sparkling wine, this sure hits all the right notes out of the gate. The wine shows a fine and sustained bead of bubbles in the glass and offers aromas of lemon, creamy pear, toast and brioche. It’s electric on the palate, driven by firm acidity and citrus zest that offers complexity, verve, freshness and flinty minerality. This is layered, textured and complex and will improve in bottle for years to come, gaining more weight and softening the high acidity over the years. Well worth buying a few bottles and putting some aside. Thiel plans on releasing a non-vintage sparkling wine every vintage and a vintage-dated sparkler when it’s warranted. Dosage will also depend on the vintage.
2027 Cellars Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Queenston Road Vineyard 2013 ($30)
Sparse use of added sugar here with a 4.5 g/l dosage in this 100% single-vineyard Chardonnay bubbly. A vigorous bubble in the glass with a nose of flinty minerality, baked bread, citrus and green apple. It’s energetic and fresh on the palate with tangy lemon-citrus notes, apple and flint notes that is juicy yet austere at this early stage.
Cave Spring Cellars Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, Niagara ($30)
Traditionally made sparkler with 30 months on the lees, this is simply gorgeous on the nose with bright apple, ripe pear, toasty-yeasty notes and profound minerality. It is complex and elegant on the palate with a tight bead of bubbles and shows a range of orchard fruits, lemon, toast, roasted almonds and laser-sharp acidity through the finish.
Westcott Vineyards Brilliant Sparkling Brut 2013 ($33)
Traditionally made sparkler from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It has a gorgeous and complex nose of perky citrus, apple, flinty minerality and toasty biscuit. It shows bright acidity and persistent bubbles on the palate with a range of citrus and apple fruit, brioche and toasted almond through a long, vibrant finish.
Chateau des Charmes Blanc de Blancs 2012, Niagara ($29)
Traditional method Chardonnay that spends 24 months on the lees. The nose shows an inviting range of toast, lemon, crisp apple and fresh baked bread notes. It’s finely balanced on the palate with tight bubbles that pop and crackle in the glass and shows creamy apple and pear, brioche, toast, citrus that all lead to a refreshing, lasting lemony finish.
13th Street Grand Cuvée Blanc de Noir Brut 0 2007 ($70)
Seven full years on the lees, zero dosage, disgorged in Oct., this adds complexity and freshness to the low-dosage Grand Cuvée regular bottling. The nose shows fresh baked bread, brioche, toast, lemon curd, wet stone, green apple and vanilla cream. There is a fine and dainty mousse to go with biting acidity that props up the wonderful smoky citrus, toast, vanilla, butter and mature apples on the palate with gorgeous complexity and mouthfeel through the finish.
Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009 ($30)
The base wine is 92% Chardonnay with the rest Pinot Noir and spends four years on the lees before disgorging. The nose shows lovely and inviting brioche, toast, lemon-lime, grapefruit and apple notes. A soft but persistent mousse delivers an array of bright lime, green apple and creamy pear notes in this nicely aged and mature sparkling wine.
Featherstone Cuvée Joy 2012 ($35)
A traditionally-made, 100% estate Chardonnay sparkling wine that lives up to its name — pure joy. The nose shows a balanced melange of pear, citrus, fresh baked bread and yeasty-toasty notes. It’s fresh and lively on the palate with a persistent bubble that highlights the pear, lime and lemon fruits that are bursting with flavour and vitality. This is a bubbly that is en pointe, with poise, balance and razor sharp acidity.
Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling NV ($30)
This bubbly is non-vintage but it is primarily from the 2013 vintage. It spent 11 months on the lees and has a dosage from Steel Post Vineyard Riesling. It’s lovely on the nose with lime, mineral, apple and toasty-baked bread notes. It has a gentle mousse and a range of citrus, grapefruit, and apple on the palate that’s bolstered by minerality and searing acidity.