Niagara Wine Reviews

Peaceful, easy feeling at 13th Street

WHAT: 13th Street Winery
WHERE: 1776 4th Ave., St. Catharines.
TASTINGS: Monday-Saturday 11 a. m. to 6 p. m. through October and open until 5 p. m. in the winter months.
WINEMAKERS: Herb Jacobson and Jean-Pierre Colas.
OWNERS: Doug and Karen Whitty and John and June Mann.
SPECIALTIES: The winery focuses mainly on Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Riesling and sparkling wines. But watch for Pinot Noir that’s made only in great vintages. The 2007 should be released this December.
MUST TRY: Anything with Sandstone Old Vines on the label. The Gamay Noir could well be this winery’s signature wine. Also try the Funk Old Vines Riesling. Wonderful stuff.
AVAILABILITY: Winery, web, Vintages.

By Rick VanSickle

The new 13th Street Winery, the first to open in St. Catharines in 17 years, is Exhibit No. 1 as to why it’s just better to taste wines at the place where they are made. 
 Strolling the picture-perfect grounds, glass in hand, and pondering the well-placed sculptures by acclaimed Hungarian-Canadian artist Karoly Veress, provides a peaceful, easy feeling.

The lawns, also featuring a small amphitheatre, at the estate are carefully dotted with Veress’s art installations while inside other artists, including David Bolduc, William Ronald and Joseph Drapell, are spread throughout the airy farmhouse that has been turned into a modern tasting room rich in dramatic art pieces. 
 The finest display is in a separate tasting room with a bright, bold acrylic painting by Bohemian-born Drapell that takes over an entire wall.

Beneath the painting is a half-ton Indonesian solid wood slab table that is available to use for private tastings. 
 Outside the tasting and retail rooms, a large cottage-style porch is an inviting spot to enjoy a glass of wine paired with one of several artisan cheeses. 
 13th Street is not new to the Niagara wine scene. It has built a strong stable of small production wines built on a solid reputation for excellent Gamay Noirs, Chardonnay, Rieslings and sparkling wines.

The original 13th Street partners, Ken Douglas, Gunther Funk, Herb Jacobson and Irv Willms, decided after 10 years it was time to move on to new adventures and sold the winery in September 2008. 
 The new owners, Doug and Karen Whitty and John and June Mann, bring with them viticulture, sales and marketing expertise and plan to slowly increase the winery’s total production as new estate vineyards come online. 
 13th Street will continue to concentrate on handcrafted traditional method sparkling wines, Gamay, Riesling and Chardonnay while bringing other small batch varietal and blended wines into the portfolio.

The new owners have purchased high-end, state of the art winemaking equipment and new estate vineyards, some of which were planted just a year ago. Plans are to raise production from 5,000 cases to 12,000 cases a year. 
 In September, the new production and hospitality facility officially opened to the public with a tasting of the portfolio. 
 Here are some highlights of the newest releases all available at the winery.

13th Street Cuvee Rose Brut 2006 ($25) — Delicate fresh strawberries and some toasty aromas. It’s vibrant and laced with racy acidity to go with pleasing soft red berries on the palate.

13th Street Sauvignon Semillon 2008 ($17) — A nice vanilla note to go with floral and pear aromas. There’s showy citrus and tropical fruit on the palate with spice underneath.

13th Street Chardonnay Sandstone Old Vines 2007 ($26) — A restrained, subtle nose at this point, but the fruit emerges on the palate in unison with the oak and spice. An elegantly styled Chardy with apple strudel fruit, peach and some tropical notes to go with generous spice notes. Could cellar for a couple of years.

13th Street Riesling Funk Old Vines 2007 ($24) — Aromas of peach, flowers, quince, lime and apple — a lot going on. With juicy acidity on the palate, the citrus-lime-grapefruit flavours are amplified.

13th Street Riesling June’s 2007 ($17) — A pleasureable off-dry style with rich peach and citrus fruits and medium acid. An everyday sipping wine.

13th Street Gamay Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2007 ($24) — A signature wine from 13th Street and one heck of a Gamay. 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.

13th Street Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($26) — A cab that’s loaded up with currants, olives, herbs, blackberry and spice. A perfect food wine with some lean notes and tannic structure to go with thick and juicy black fruits.