Best Ontario wine

Vintages is starting to shake off the holiday hangover and return to a robust selection of Niagara wines at the twice-monthly LCBO release.

It’s not quite there yet, with only a smattering of Niagara wines hitting store shelves on Saturday (Feb. 4) — some re-releases — but nonetheless, some nice juice to help you deal with the mid-winter blues.

Here’s what we can recommend, plus some new releases coming up from Chateau des Charmes and Henry of Pelham.

Vintages releases Saturday

Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2013 ($30, 90 points) — This is the entry point for Queylus’s Pinot program (if you can call a $30 wine entry level). The nose is gorgeous with spicy cherry fruit, fine oak spice, raspberry and earth. It’s pretty on the palate, elegant, in fact, with red fruits, earth, spice and uplifting acidity.

Best Ontario ChardonnayDomaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2014 ($25, 88 points) — From the single-vineyard Lincoln-Lakeshore vineyard, the nose shows pear, smoke, salinity, vanilla spice and citrus zest on the edges. It’s an easy-to-like Chard with poached pear, green apple and citrus all nicely balanced with wood spice.

Ontario appassimento wine

Foreign Affair Dream 2012 ($30, 92 points) — The ’12 Vintage of Dream is a blend of 33% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot with 24% of the first three grapes dried to some extent. The wine spends 18 months in a combination of four different oak treatments and chimes in at a rather hefty 14.9% alcohol. Winemaker Barclay Robinson hopes consumers will lay this wine down for a bit before opening. This is a gorgeous wine with generous and layered aromas of black currant jam, crunchy raspberry, cherry, blueberry and lavish oak barrel-derived spices. It simply bursts on the palate with flavours of dark currants, raspberry pie, blackberry, cinnamon and nutmeg all built on a structured frame of firm tannins. This is made to be cellared, but would still pair nicely with grilled meat right now.

Lakeview Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 ($30 for 200 mL, 92 points) — An expressive note of black cherry, strawberry and blueberry pie. It’s sweet and rich on the palate with strawberry/raspberry jam and subtle herbs that provide a lavish and textured Icewine with good balance from freshening acidity through the finish.

A bargain wine from South Africa

Durbanville Hills Atlantic View Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($12, LCBO General List, 87 points) — This is South Africa’s most popular Sauvignon Blanc under a new package. It has a nose of melon, tropical fruits, acacia and herbs. It’s balanced on the palate, a friendly white, with an array of apple, melon, pear and guava with refreshing acidity.

Also released, but not reviewed:

  • G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay 2015 ($18)
  • Ridgepoint Pinot Noir 2011 ($15)

New Niagara wines recently tasted:

Chateau des Charmes

Best Niagara wines

Chateau des Charmes Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015 ($15, 89 points) — A sense of elegance on the nose with notes of creamy pear, apple, melon, butter and vanilla cream. This is a comforting Chard on the palate with a creamy texture that highlights rich poached pear, lovely oak spices and lively acidity to keep it all balanced.

Top Niagara wines

Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2015 ($15, 87 points) — A nose of raspberry, blackberry, earth, baking spices, sweet herbs and subtle spice. It’s medium bodied and fresh on the palate with red fruits, anise, well-integrated spice and soft tannins.

Henry of Pelham

Henry of Pelham Family Tree White 2015 ($18, 88 points) — The Family Tree HoP wines are always blends of different varietals with the fruit sourced from the estate “but also those of our friends, neighbours and distant cousins across the Niagara Peninsula.” The white is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay Musque with about 40% of the fruit barrel fermented and barrel aged for 8 months. The nose shows rich pear, apple, tropical fruits, a whiff of lychee and spice. It has a soft texture on the palate with broad flavours of pear, grilled pineapple, bruised apple and vanilla toast.

Best Ontario Baco Noir

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2015 ($25, 90 points) — It would not be fair to say that Baco Noir is what HoP does best, but it is fair to say the Short Hills winery does it better than anyone else in Niagara. Henry of Pelham has a deep and dynamic portfolio that excels at Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, sparkling wine and Cabernet Merlot, but it owns Baco in Ontario, perhaps Canada. The Family Reserve is the top tier for this varietal and the 2015 vintage shows a very thick, dark and rich colour in the glass with a concentrated nose of kirsch, raspberry jam, expressive barrel spices and compoted dark fruits. Shows brightness on the palate from high acidity with a range of ripe red and dark fruits, anise, earth, bramble, oak spices, polished tannins and medium+ finish.