Niagara Wine Reviews

Outstanding icewine the star of this diverse portfolios

WHAT: Riverview Cellars Winery
WHERE: 15376 Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
TASTINGS: 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. daily.
WINEMAKER: Angela Kasimos.
OWNERS: Sam and Lina Pillitteri.
SPECIALITIES: Crafts wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon icewines, also Bordeaux varietals and aromatic whites.
MUST TRY: Buona Notte Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine, Salvatore’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.
AVAILABILITY: Winery, web only

By Rick VanSickle

There’s not a lot of flash or grandiose facades leading to Riverview Cellars Winery. But what it does have is a hardworking and enthusiastic family who all chip in to make the winery, with a perfect location along the Niagara Parkway, a success. 
 The tasting room and property is unassuming, quaint but so unlike the big, bold statements of other Niagara wineries nearby that draw tourists by the busloads.

Sam and Lina Pillitteri purchased the farmland and historic storefront in 1975 and grew fruit for many years before Sam’s brother, Gary, called to say he was starting up a winery, Pillitteri Estates, and needed more grapes to fuel the growing wine program. Slowly, what was once a thriving fruit farm, was being transformed into vineyards. By 1998, six acres of grapes had been planted with room to plant even more vinifera grapes.

With their son Michael showing an interest in wine, the Pillitteri’s decided in 2000 to make their own wines from the estate’s newly planted vines. The production today is about 5,000 cases spread over 15 different wines. This family operation depends on, and gets, a steady flow of repeat customers who have come to love the fine wines crafted at the winery.

While Michael Pillitteri runs the day-to-day operation at the winery, the winemaking is left to Angela Kasimos, a young and already successful winemaker who, in her first two years, has made four different wines that have earned medals in Canadian competitions.

The winery makes a diverse portfolio of wines with the best being the aromatic white wines, red blended wines and one of the best, if not the best, Cabernet Franc icewine this reviewer has ever tasted. 
 Here are some fine wines made at Riverview tasted during a recent pre-release at the winery. All wines are available only at the winery or on the web.

Riverview Cellars Gewurztraminer 2008($19) — Classic Gewurz nose of rose petals, lychee and grapefruit. It’s made in bone-dry style with citrus and tropical fruits on the palate.

Riverview Cellars Riesling 2008($17) — Peach and citrus-lime aromas followed by zingy, zippy fruits on the palate. Crisp citrus and sweet-tart peach and lime flavours in this refreshingly dry Riesling.

Riverview Cellars Rosso 2007 ($19) — A blended house style red with currant, plum and mocha aromas on the nose. The palate reveals cherries, currants and blackberries with spice underneath. A lovely everyday red.

Riverview Cellars Merlot 2007 ($21) — A soft but fragrant nose of plum and black cherry fruit. It explodes on the palate with ripe, bold cherry, cocoa, herbs and spice. Good acidity and grip in the mouth.

Riverview Cellars Salvatore’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($40) — From young vines planted in 2004, all hand-picked and thinned to less than one tonne per acre. This is the best of the best grapes from Riverview. It’s a gorgeous Cabernet on the nose with blackberry, mocha spice and dark, wild fruit aromas. It’s lush on the palate with firm tannins, bright fruit, structure and power. This young wine will improve for years in the bottle. One for the cellar.

Riverview Cellars Buona Notte Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2007 ($100 for 375 ml, 5 stars) — A finer Cabernet Sauvignon icewine you will not find and well deserving of the perfect score given above. There are a mere 48 cases of this exquisite wine available for sale, so if you want some, get it now. Gorgeous waves of exotic spice show up first on the nose followed by cherry-kirsch, thick strawberry jam, roasted hazelnuts and creme brule. It is a beautiful thing in the mouth, a perfect marriage of highly extracted red fruits, exotic spice and roasted nut flavours. It combines power and grace with impeccable balance and just the right amount of acidity to take the edge off the super-sweet fruits. A harmonious, monumental wine for a special occasion.