Niagara wine

By Rick VanSickle

There is no stopping the pink revolution sweeping Niagara wine country this spring.

What used to be a minefield dotted with myriad styles cluttering store shelves — from heavy to sweet to afterthought and under-thought — is being purposely crafted by winemakers to provide pretty, delicate, dry, fresh and vibrant rosés that are paler in colour and bottled in a bone-dry (or much dried) style with lower alcohol.

This is a good thing, a very good thing, and consumers are lapping it up.

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It doesn’t hurt that marketing has risen to the challenge of how to present all that pinkish loveliness by coming up with charming packaging that shows all the best assets of this style of wine. It’s pretty damn hard to ignore a well-tapered bottle of pretty-in-pink rosé that seems to be smiling radiantly, enticingly at you from the shelf.

In this report, we look at a few new pink wines, including a cloudy/hazy pét-nat from Rosewood that has light pink hues but is not a rosé by any definition. Also reviewed is Henry of Pelham’s new Three of Hearts Rosé, Chateau des Charmes’ classic Cuvée D’Andrée rosé and the repackaged Trius Rosé.

There are also reviews for new wines from Flat Rock Cellars and more new reviews for Henry of Pelham and Chateau des Charmes. We also look at the Niagara wines being released Saturday at Vintages stores in Ontario.

Rosé-coloured glasses

Best Niagara wine

Trius Rosé 2017 ($18, 89 points) — Made from a tantalizing blend of 52% Gamay Noir, 27% Pinot Gris and 21% Syrah that has a pale salmon colour in the clear glass bottle adorned in fancy pink type. It has pretty and delicate aromas of strawberries, cran-cherries and pomegranates. It’s perfectly dry, refreshing and bursting with red berries on a textured finish. Simply delicious! Only 12% abv.

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Chateau des Charmes Rosé Cuvée D’Andrée 2016 ($16, Vintages, grocery, winery, 89 points) — Subtle, pretty nose of cherries, strawberries and summer raspberries. This 100% Pinot Noir rosé is nice and dry on the palate, and shows a ripe basket of red fruits with a touch of earth to go with a fresh, vibrant and crisp finish. Alcohol is kept to 12.5%.

Rosewood Nebulous 2017 ($25, released last Saturday at the winery with a six-bottle limit, 88 points) — This second edition of pét-nat (pétillant-naturel) wine but is not a rosé but decided the lovely, cloudy pink colour of the wine fits the category of above wines for the purposes here. Nebulous was fermented without selected yeast, fining agents or added sulphur and is a blend of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. It was bottled before the end of alcoholic fermentation with its natural lees, causing the light pressure and integrated bubbles to form within the wine. Releasing the crown cap reveals a vigorous bubble both in the glass and for a long time after in the bottle. It pours a foggy salmon/rust colour and throws off heady aromas of strawberry, watermelon, peach and pulpy grapefruit slices. It’s tart and dry on the palate with soft red fruits, pink grapefruit, earth and bramble notes that are quite fresh and lively from firm acidity. You’ll want to drink the entire bottle, which is OK, as it’s made with only 11% abv.

Henry of Pelham Three of Hearts Rosé 2017 ($20, Vintages May 12, winery now, 90 points) — This pale salmon blend of Pinot Noir (62%) and Pinot Gris (38%) hits all the right notes for the more subtle and refreshing style of rosé consumers seem to be attracted to. Just the tapered bottle and labeling alone is enough to make a great first impression. Look for aromas of cherries, strawberries, peach, melon and wet hay. It has lovely texture, only a kiss of sweetness, and a whole lot of red berries and melon notes on the mid palate with citrus zest on the finish.

Flat Rock Cellars

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2016 ($20, Vintages April 28, 90 points) — Anyone who thinks Niagara can’t make great wines at affordable prices needs to take a drive up to Flat Rock Cellars where value isn’t just a buzz word, it’s a way of life. This mid-tier Chardonnay from the warm 2016 vintage in Ontario is a perfect example. Made from 100% estate fruit on the Twenty Mile Bench and fermented and aged in French oak, the nose is expressive and rich with a foundation of orchard fruits, minerals, toasted oak and spice. It is a rich and comforting Chard but also shows vibrancy and finesse on the palate with pear, apple, cream, minerals and a wide range of oaky spice notes. Really nice wine.

Flat Rock Cellars Unplugged Chardonnay 2016 ($18, Vintages May 26, 88 points) — This is the unoaked version of the wine above. So, fresh and enchanting aromas of apple, citrus and minerality. There is a subtle creamy note on the palate from lees aging but the core of this Chard is all about fresh orchard fruits and bright minerality with a zesty, vibrant finish.

Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2016 ($18, Vintages May 12, 89 points) — A nose of gushing lime, grapefruit and minerals in a fresh, vibrant style. There’s classic Niagara tension on the palate between sweet and tart fruit but ultimately feels dry and fresh with waves of citrus and limestone minerality.

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2014 ($35, Vintages April 28, 90 points) — Pinot Noir fared much better than many red varietals in the difficult 2014 vintage in Niagara. This Pinot from Flat Rock (a reserve in made in rare vintages) shows a complex nose of earth, bramble, dark cherry, cassis and toasted oak spices. It has velvety tannins on the palate and a range of tart red fruits, cassis, anise, earth and spice notes.

Niagara wines released at Vintages Saturday

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($30, 92 points) — This was on the Wines In Niagara Top 10 White Wines of 2017 list. It is a gorgeous Chardonnay that now has a bit more time in the bottle. With an intense nose, this is top tier Chardonnay from the Short Hills Bench. Look for spiced apples, mineral notes, creamy pear and just a touch of citrus on the edges. Gorgeous mouth-feel with freshening acidity highlights a range of orchard fruits, toasted barrel spice and swirling minerality. It’s balanced and poised now but can cellar 3+ years.

A new release from Henry of Pelham:

Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2015 ($25, Vintages May 26, 89 points) — A lovely expression of Short Hills Bench Pinot Noir with aromas of violets, red berries, fresh tobacco, vanilla and oak all nicely knitted together. It has a savoury note on the palate and is built on a silky smooth frame with red and dark fruits, spice, cloves and a smoky note on the finish.

New release from Chateau des Charmes:

Chateau des Charmes Pinot Noir 2016 ($16, LCBO, grocery, winery, 88 points) — Spicy cherry, bramble, raspberry and cassis notes on the nose. It’s smooth and approachable on the palate with cherry and raspberry fruit to go with earth, light spice and soft tannins.

Other Niagara wines released at Vintages Saturday but not reviewed:

• Henry of Pelham Cabernet Icewine 2015 ($40 for 200 mL)
• Contraband Sparkling Chardonnay NV ($20)
• Vieni Momenti Sparklling Wine NV ($14)
• Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2017 ($17)
• Rockway Vineyards Chardonnay/Riesling 2015 ($17)
• The Tragically Hip Ahead By A Century Chardonnay 2016 ($20)
• Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($19)
• Malivoire Gamay 2016 ($18)
• Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2015 ($26)
• Vieni Gamay Noir 2016 ($18)