By Rick VanSickle

Not a huge selection of Niagara wines released last Saturday at Vintages, but there are a couple of gems, and if you’re a fan of all Canadian wines, there is a fairly large contingent of wines from the Okanagan.

The March 18 Vintages release features a much larger collection of Ontario wines, which we’ll report on in two weeks. For now, here’s what we can recommend from the March 4 release from the Niagara selection as well as the B.C. wines and a quartet of new releases from Niagara’s Kacaba winery, highlighted by two very nice expressions of top Syrah.

Kacaba Vineyards

Kacaba Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 ($15, Vintages, 88 points) — This is the fourth iteration of winemaker John Tummon’s purest expression of Chardonnay that’s unencumbered by oak influence. The nose shows a pure expression of juicy apple, peach and a touch of zesty citrus and mineral notes. It’s clean and fresh on the palate and loaded with orchard fruit goodness.

Kacaba Cabernet 2015 ($16, released this summer at LCBO stores, 88 points) — A blend of 90% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon that shows a mélange of black currants, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, earth notes and subtle spice. There is purity of fruit on the palate, with a touch of bramble and spice, but altogether an easy-drinking red that over-delivers at this price.

Kacaba Terrace Vineyard Syrah 2014 ($30, release TBA, 92 points) — Terrace Vineyard is one of the two original blocks of Syrah planted in the Kacaba Vineyard dating back to 1998. The wine is aged in a combination of French and U.S. oak for 12 months. The nose shows classic aromas of smoked deli meats, a floral note with raspberry-cherry, red currants, sweet cedar, saddle leather, barrel oak spices and pepper. It has lovely mouth-feel with a gorgeous range of red fruits, smoke, spice, crunchy black peppercorns with length through the finish.

Kacaba Proprietor’s Block Syrah 2014 ($30, release TBA, 91 points) — The Proprietor’s Block consists of some of the youngest vines planted at the estate and also sees 12 months of oak aging in French and U.S. oak. It has a smoky/meaty nose with enthralling cherry and blueberry fruit and fresh ground pepper. It shows savoury spice notes on the palate with bright red fruits, dried herbs to go with smooth tannins and zippy acidity through the finish.

Vintages release March 4

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling 2014 ($21, 88 points) — Organic and biodynamic farming, traditional method and aged 12 months on the lees, the nose shows creamy/toasty notes of citrus and lemon, ripe apple and some swirling mineral notes. It’s bright and juicy on the palate with a lively mousse and leans toward citrus fruit and minerals through a fresh finish.

Henry of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2012 ($25, 91 points) — Henry of Pelham does a lot of things right from the grapes that grow best in Niagara, and, in particular, the Short Hills Bench sub-appellation, but red blends from Bordeaux grapes in warm vintages is certainly one of its strong suits. I am convinced, now that I have seen most of the 2012 reds released, that this warm vintage was just about perfect for Niagara’s “big” reds — the blends from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This mid-tier red blend from the above grapes is just getting better in the bottle and still has a long way to go. Such a lovely, rich and enticing nose of blackberry, kirsch, cassis and oak barrel spices. It rocks on the palate, gorgeous, layered dark fruits, rousing spices, melting tannins and everything starting to harmonize beautifully. Exceptional value for a top Niagara red.

Also released but not reviewed:

  • Reif Vidal Icewine 2014 ($25 for 200 mL)
  • Fergie Jenkins Limited Edition Riesling 2014 ($16)
  • Marynissen Riesling 2014 ($17)
  • Vintage Ink Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($17)
  • Creekside Cabernet Franc 2013 ($23)

Okanagan Wines in the release
we can recommend:

Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($30, Essentials, 92 points) — What a gorgeous Okanagan Cab Sauv, so rich and fulsome with an attractive nose of blackberry, raspberry, bramble, currants, plums, saddle leather and barrel spices. It’s not overpowering on the palate and shows some elegance to go with lush and savoury dark fruits, ripe tannic structure and brightening acidity through a long finish. Buy, hold and enjoy for 5+ years.

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2013 ($28, 89 points) — The Syrah grapes for this reserve wine were sourced from estate vineyards in the warm climate of Osoyoos’s Black Sage Bench. The nose shows a rich, peppery broth of blueberry, violets, cassis and white pepper notes. The palate reveals plenty of pepper spice, a range of dark fruits, savoury notes and licorice to go with ripe tannins and freshening acidity.

Other Okanagan wines available: Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay, Gray Monk Pinot Noir, Burrowing Owl Merlot, Quails’ Gate Chardonnay, Stoneboat Pinot Gris and Dirty Laundry Woo Woo Wines Gewurztraminer.