Niagara wine

By Rick VanSickle

Things are popping at Niagara’s PondView Estate Winery.

With the birth of the top tier Bella Terra single-vineyard, old-vine and traditionally-made sparkling wine at the estate, PondView has joined a bubbles club in Niagara that seems to gain new members every vintage.

It’s not that PondView didn’t have a sparkler in its portfolio, it did, with the Lot 74 charmat method, but it’s a giant leap from charmat to a full-on traditional method (Champagne style) bubbly that tests your patience and takes a significant outlay of cash before profits are realized years down the road. It’s not a business model for the squeamish.

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PondView proprietor Lou Puglisi (right) and winery sommelier Marcel Mortgenstern

PondView opted for 18 months on the lees before disgorging its first effort and will release a 24-month lees-aged bubbly followed by a 36-month lees-aged wine after that. A very low dosage of 5-7 g/l was back added, so expect this sparkling wine to have a significantly dry, fresh profile.

PondView has always taken the long view on its portfolio, slowly building it up to where it is today — a deep and thoughtful collection of wines over three different tiers made by winemaker Fred Di Profio of generally what grows best and delivers the best quality from the terroir of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It has a nice mix of LCBO general list wines, Vintages wines and winery-only bottles made at the highest end of the spectrum.

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I sat down with proprietor Lou Puglisi and winery sommelier Marcel Mortgenstern to get caught up on the currant wines. It was also a chance to get a taste of the new Food Truck at PondView that provides a delicious menu of everything from the Green Goddess Wrap (vegan) and Lou’s Italian Sandwich to the Mexican Grain Bowl and Charcuterie Board (above) served on the patio and paired to PondView wines.

Here’s what I liked from the tasting:

PondView Bella Terra Blanc de Blancs 2016 (price N/A, released this fall, 91 points) — This first traditionally-made sparkling wine from PondView is 100% Chardonnay that spent 18 months on the lees and had a subtle dosage of 5-7 g/l of residual sugar back added. It has a nose of fresh-cut citrus, green apple, brioche and some toasty/melba notes. It’s fresh, dry and lively on the palate with a vigorous mousse, vibrant citrus and apple with perky acidity that keeps it popping through the finish.

PondView Lot 74 Sparkling Brut NV ($25, 88 points) — Made in the charmat method from 100% Vidal, this sparkler has an inviting nose apple, peach, lemon and soft creamy notes. It has energetic bubbles on the palate with peach, grapefruit, lime and touch of sweetness on the finish.

PondView Dry Riesling 2016 ($20, 89 points) — Notes of peach, lemon, mineral, a floral accent and just starting to hint at petrol on the nose. It’s completely dry and vibrant on the palate with waves of fresh-cut citrus and peach flavours all lifted by electric acidity.

PondView Skipping Stone 2017 ($17, 87 points) — A summery wine that combines Riesling and Gewurztraminer. It has a fresh and fruity nose of peach, lemon and honey notes. It’s not too sweet on the palate and the flavours range from citrus to orchard fruits with zippy acidity to keep things somewhat balanced.

PondView Rosé 2017 ($17, 90 points) — A delicious 100% Cabernet Franc rosé that shows a range of lovely red berries, herbs and grapefruit on the nose. It is quite juicy on the palate, perfectly dry and imparts savoury red fruits, herbs and citric acidity.

PondView Bella Terra Chardonnay 2015 ($30, 91 points) — From the estate’s top Chardonnay vines, some 30 years old, and aged in French oak for 24 months with another 12 months of bottles aging before release. Quite a beautiful bottle of wine with a nose of well-integrated pear, apple and elegant spice notes. It’s creamy and rich on the palate with some finesse and verve, but all in all a comfortable, fruit-packed Chardonnay that will match brilliantly with butter-soaked lobster or king crab legs.

PondView Cabernet Merlot 2016 ($17, LCBO, 88 points) — A ripe and fruity nose of red berries, currants and light spice notes. On the palate, it shows plenty of ripe fruit notes along with softish tannins and decent acidity. Nice find on the general list at the LCBO.

PondView Cabernet Merlot Reserve 2016 ($23, 90 points) — The reserve version of this wine kicks it up a notch or two with a richer, deeper fruit profile of red berries, cassis, currants and spice. Much better structure here with high-toned tannins, well integrated range of fruits, spice and a long finish.

PondView Bella Terra Cabernet Franc 2015 ($40, early 2019 release, 92 points) — A wonderful Cabernet Franc that shows a nose of black currants, cassis, herbs and lovely oak barrel spices notes. It shows good tannic structure and bright acidity that highlights the range of ripe fruits on the palate and expressive spice notes on the finish. Can cellar this 5+ years.