Wines In Niagara

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Tag: Jordan

The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette — leave your preconceptions at the door  

Niagara food

By Michael Lowe

If you’re like me — open-minded about food and always up for a refreshing new dining experience — The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette Winery may just be the perfect fit for you.  Continue reading

Niagara Icewine Festival 2017 begins – and Mike Lowe eats it up from the glitzy gala to the sparkling streets of Jordan

Niagara icewine festival

By Michael Lowe

The first of three weekends celebrating the sweet nectar of Niagara’s vines got underway last weekend. With great wine there must be great food, and there was no shortage of delectable dishes designed to keep the palate inspired and wanting for more. Continue reading

The wines of Pearl Morissette: Dig ’em or don’t, he doesn’t make them for everyone


It’s not comfortable writing about Pearl Morissette. Not comfortable at all. Of all the wineries in Niagara, heck, Ontario and maybe even Canada, Jordan’s Pearl Morissette is a such a polarizing subject that it would be much easier to just let them do what they do forever in obscurity. But, of course, that would be wrong. Continue reading

Fore! Rockway drives for success at its estate vineyard and golf course


When I dragged my family to our new life in Niagara about six years ago, one of my first priorities was to find a local golf club where our son, 10 years old at the time, but already playing on a regular basis, could continue to hone his game. Continue reading

Looking back on Calamus’ Meritage collection

In many ways, Meritage is the perfect red wine for Niagara.

It takes what the vintage gives, allowing winemakers to adjust accordingly. A hot, dry vintage tends to favour a larger percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. A cooler vintage like 2008, and more Cabernet Franc and Merlot are used while the Cabernet Sauvignon content is dialed back.

The various vintages of Calamus Meritage that was tasted.

The various vintages of Calamus Meritage that was tasted.

The various personalities of Meritage were laid out for us to try recently at a Calamus vertical tasting of the five Meritages made at the Jordan winery since the debut 2004 vintage.

Meritage (rhymes with heritage) is an American term for a blend of red or white grapes. Under Canadian VQA regulations a Meritage is:

1) A red wine produced from a blend of two or more of the grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, or

2) A white wine produced from a blend of two or more of the following grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.

No single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend.

Curiously, in the country where Meritage was born, it appears the concept has been blown out of the water by persistent court challenges siding with a Napa Valley winery that fought, and won, the right to put Meritage on the label of a wine made from 100% Malbec grapes.

Calamus winemaker Arthur Harder.

Calamus winemaker Arthur Harder.

VQA has kept both the red and white Meritage blends consistent with the heavily regulated Bordeaux red and white regulations, which was the original intent in California, the birthplace of the Meritage designation.

Niagara is divided on the concept. Many wineries craft a Meritage blend but there are also wineries that make proprietary blends out of whatever the heck they want. Also popular are Cabernet-Merlot blends, essentially the same as Meritage, but labeled differently.

Calamus winemaker, Arthur Harder, has continued the traditional route started by the wineries’ owners Derek Saunders and his wife, Pat Latin.

The first vintage of Meritage was actually made by Saunders in 2004. The blend was built more on “whatever we could get our hands on at the time” than any kind of concerted effort in the barrel room tasting samples.

The first blend was something that won’t likely be repeated (though the wine received some critical acclaim) with a whopping 80% Cabernet Sauvignon used in the finished wine.

Today, Harder makes the wine and employs a more traditional system of tasting barrel samples of the various grapes to come up with that year’s assemblage. And each vintage blend is different.

Here are the notes from the vertical tasting at Calamus (the current vintage is 2007, the 2008 vintage was a barrel sample):

The selection of Calamus Meritages

The selection of Calamus Meritages

Calamus Meritage 2004 ($20, very limited supply, 3.5 stars) — Mature fruit notes on the nose to go with kirsch, vanilla and spice. Still some life on the palate but fading with tart red fruit flavours, herbs and integrated oak and spice. Lighter in style.

Calamus Meritage 2005 ($30, very limited, 4 stars) — This is made up of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 6% Merlot. Harder calls it “steak in a glass” meaning it’s meaty, evolving and bold. Plum fruits, cherry, mocha, anise and licorice flavours to go with mouth-coating tannins. All that and a nice, long finish.

Calamus Meritage 2006 ($35, 30 cases left, 4 stars) — This is made up of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc and 26% Merlot. It starts with black cherry, licorice, forest floor and pepper on the nose. More Old World style with mature fruit and mushroom-earthy flavours on the palate. Likely at its peak.

Calamus Meritage 2007 ($27, 4.5 stars) — This is made up of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot from the excellent 2007 vintage. A gorgeous nose of plums, blackberry, sweet spice, oak and mocha. On the palate it’s rich with decent acidity and flavours of cassis, cherry, a touch of herbs and bell peppers, truffles, and all leading to a polished finish. This is well-balanced now but will benefit from some cellar time.

Calamus Meritage 2008 (barrel sample) — This is made up of 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Cabernet Franc and 35% Merlot. If the these percentages make it to the final blend, look for a leaner wine than in previous vintages. Fragrant fresh berries, violets and a subtle herb note on the nose. Medium weight on the palate, berries and lightly oaked at this stage.

And a couple of Calamus wines also tried recently:

Calamus Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2008 ($17, 4 stars) — A nose of apple-citrus kissed with oak, spice and vanilla. On the palate it’s like apple pie drizzled with caramel and loaded with fruit, zest, spice and length on the finish. Very nice Chard!

Calamus Red Reserve 2007 ($18, 4 stars) — A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a splash of Syrah. The nose shows cassis, blackberry and intricate mocha-vanilla spices. Love this wine on the palate with blackberry, melted dark chocolate, spice and oak tones. Save for the cellar.


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