Niagara Wine Reviews

A coming of age for Cuvee wine awards and gala

What: 22nd Cuvee awards
When: Held Feb. 19 at Niagara Fallsview Casino
What it’s for: Awards night for Ontario wineries
Charity: Money raised goes to the Niagara Community Foundation, which grants money to local charities through an endowment fund.

By Rick VanSickle

Three very important things occurred during the Cuvee 2010 wine awards and gala.

1. The 22nd annual wine awards show, held Feb. 19, established itself as a bonafide and serious contender for the most important awards benchmark for Niagara wines.

2. The event proved that the 2007 vintage will be remembered as a coming of age year for Niagara wines.

3. Creekside’s perennial winner, the iconic Broken Press Shiraz, can successfully be challenged but the winery’s dominance is still unmatched.

Let’s explain all that.

On the first point, Cuvee’s unique judging process, with winemakers themselves doing the bulk of the judging with a back-up professional tasting panel working in the background, produced an excellent and representative list of Ontario’s best wines. There were very few (if any?) head-scratchers on the list of winners.

Also, the show starts on time, has a lively Oscar-style presentation with short introduction speeches, and then gets to the most important aspect of the event — trying the amazing array of Ontario’s best wines matched with some good eats.

On the second point, the amount of fabulous 2007 reds in one room only proved conclusively the power of this vintage. Tasting the best wines from a dream vintage all together in one room will have people talking about 2007 for a very long time.

And, on the third point, Creekside. The powerful winemaking team of Craig McDonald and Rob Power cleaned up again with five awards for wines made at Creekside and Wayne Gretzky Estates. But, in somewhat of an upset, their highly-decorated top Shiraz, the Broken Press Shiraz (which has won accolades every year since its inception and for the reserve Shiraz before that), was dethroned by Fielding Estate’s Syrah 2007 and Jackson-Triggs’ Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Syrah 2007. There were more than a few gasps from the gala crowd when the award was announced.

But, hey, don’t feel too bad for Creekside/Gretzky. They picked up wins for Red Assemblage (Gretzky Estate Series Shiraz Cabernet 07), Sauvignon Blanc (for the reserve 07), Viognier (two awards for the reserve 08), and the LCBO White Award for its Pinot Grigio 08. All in all, a pretty good medal haul.

Other multiple winners included Flat Rock Cellars (top White Wine and Chardonnay for its 07 Reserve Chardonnay), Jackson-Triggs (tied with Fielding for Shiraz and LCBO Red Wine award for the Proprietors’ Reserve Meritage 07), Inniskillin (for top Red Wine and best Cabernet Franc for its Reserve Series Cabernet Franc 2007) and Thirty Bench Wine Makers (for top Meritage for the Small Lot Benchmark Red 07 and top Riesling for the Small Lot Steel Post Vineyard 08).

A full list of the winners can be found at

While I haven’t tasted every wine that won an award at Cuvee, here are reviews (edited) of some of the winners previously reviewed in this space (all highly rated):

Inniskillin Reserve Series Cabernet Franc 2007 ($19) — Generous aromas of fresh raspberry, currants and mocha spices. Delicious on the palate with lush red fruits, wild spices, cocoa and a nice finish.

Flat Rock Cellars Reserve Chardonnay 2007 ($35) — Creamy aromas of Bosc pear, toast, spice and vanilla. It is pure elegance on the palate with rich, ripe pear and tropical fruits propped up by an array of spice, oak and a touch of citrus on the edges.

Creekside Reserve Viognier 2008 ($26) — Intense tropical fruit, sweet peach compote, apricot and floral notes on the nose. It’s rich on the palate but has excellent vibrancy and length.

Trius Brut ($25, LCBO) — Plenty of citrus zip on the nose with yeast, apple and toast following. Very nice bubbly with good citrus-apple notes and lively acidity to refresh the palate.

Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Vineyard Riesling 2008 ($30) — Marked by sharp citrus-lime notes, and a wonderful bead of minerality that travels on a firm backbone of acidity.

Creekside Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($25) — Shows intense tropical/ grapefruit/gooseberry notes on the nose with a sprinkling of vanilla and oak. It’s full bodied and vibrant with added oak-touched spice.

Fielding Estate Syrah 2007 ($45) — A riveting red with aromas of roasted meats, blueberry, wildberry, leather, smoke, creosote and game that comes at you in wave after wave. The dark fruits on the palate are joined by mint, liquorice, tar and smoky oak notes.

Tawse 17th Street Pinot Noir 2007 ($58) — Red cherry-raspberry jam aromas to go with vanilla and perfumed spice. On the palate, pure elegance, layered spice and persistent red fruit flavours.

13th Street Gamay Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2007 ($24) — An earthy and cherry-laden nose with wonderful toasted oak notes to go with plums and wild berries. It’s rich, layered and fruity on the palate with a healthy helping of interesting spice.