Niagara Wine Reviews

Send in the clones! New Cattail Creek wines

You just have to love the passion of Niagara winemakers and their quest for the extraordinary, that burning desire to do more.

Cattail Creek winemaker Colin Ferguson shows the new Colaboration wines in this photo courtesy of the St. Catharines Standard.

Colin Ferguson, with only one full vintage under his belt as the new winemaker at Cattail Creek, is making his presence felt with a brand new line of wines called Collaboration.

It will be comprised of the best wines made at the Niagara-on-the-Lake winery with a focus on estate-grown fruit, bringing together the winemaker’s talent in “collaboration” with vineyard manager Warren Dyck.

The first wines are all from 2009, Ferguson’s first full vintage after starting in the summer of that year.

Ferguson is a former combat engineer with the Canadian Armed Forces who followed his love of wine after his military career. He spent two years in Bordeaux before graduating from Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture Program and subsequent stints as assistant winemaker to Derek Barnett at Lailey and Marlize Beyer at Flat Rock.

At Cattail, he’s found the perfect playground to try new things.

The bottles that make up the Colaboration wines.

First out of the gate is a wine geek’s dream — a series of five wines showing the clonal differences in Rieslings grown in the same vineyard. That’s right. The same grape, the same estate vineyard but all single bottlings broken down by three different clones and vine ages (old vines and new vines). The final wine is a blend of equal amounts of the above.

What a fascinating concept. To delve into the taste profiles of the three main Riesling clones grown in Niagara and taste them side by side along with clonal examples from old vines and young vines is just such a great opportunity for wine lovers.

The sign that greets visitors to Cattail Creek.

The three clones (a clone is the offspring of grapevines containing the genetic material of the parent but with distinctly different wine aromas and flavours) bottled are Clone 49, 21B and 239.

Each clone has its own unique qualities. Weis 21B is the most widely used in Niagara’s Bench wineries, delivering an upper Mosel style of wine with aromatic, mineral and spicy notes. Clone 49, more often planted in Niagara-on-the-Lake, tends to be more floral with tropical fruit notes in the Alsatian vein, where the style is for a bigger, more alcoholic wine. And Clone 239 is associated with the fruitier Rieslings of the German Rhine region.

Colin Ferguson in the barrel cellar at Cattail Creek.

The four Clonal Project wines will be sold as a set for $100 and will include detailed tasting notes. They will be available starting March 5. The blend of the wines will also be released that day at $25. Here’s a review of the wines:

Cattail Creek Collaboration Clone 49 Riesling 2009 (4 stars) — Fabulous aromas of tropical fruits, lime, citrus and a mineral note. It’s fresh and vibrant on the palate with a mineral edge under the core of fruit. Lovely clean finish.

Cattail Creek Collaboration Clone 239 Riesling 2009 (4 stars) — More fruit on the nose of this beauty that’s loaded with stone fruit, lime, citrus and grapefruit. It shows more residual sugar on the palate, with a rounder feel, but wonderful texture and good acidity.

Cattail Creek Collaboration Clone 21 Young Vines Riesling 2009 (4.5 stars) — A pretty nose of tropical fruits, melon, citrus and mineral. It’s a minerally driven wine in the mouth with gushing tropical and citrus fruits, racy acidity and the driest of the five wines tasted.

Cattail Creek Collaboration Clone 21 Old Vines Riesling 2009 (4.5 stars) — From vines planted in 1976, this is a sensational Riesling on its own. A nose of citrus, melon and apple notes. It’s a wine of substance on the palate with spicy fruits, less mineral influence, more sweetness but broad and textured. A regal Riesling.

Winemaker Colin Ferguson pours wine in the cellar.

Cattail Creek Collaboration Riesling 2009 (4.5 stars) — This is the combination, in equal amounts, of the above four wines, and the only wine to be sold on its own. It’s a beauty, a gorgeous and appealing Riesling with citrus, grapefruit, touches of tropical fruits and minerals on the nose. It’s a wine that’s firm on the palate, like a good Riesling should be, but still gushes fruit and minerals in exciting waves of pleasure. In short, a stunning collaboration of clones all coming together in one exciting wine.

Note: Ferguson has elected to only make a single clonal wine out of the Clone 21 Old Vines as well as the blend of all clones for the 2010 vintage.


A couple of other wines tried from the Collaboration series:

Cattail Creek Collaboration Wild Ferment Gewurztraminer 2009 ($25, March 5 release, 4.5 stars) — Fantastic nose of balanced (not overly done) lychee, grapefruit, floral notes. I love the even-handed fruit and dialed down exotic spice of this restrained and elegant gewurz, a variety I love when not made in an over-the-top manner. Extra points go to Ferguson for keeping acids up in this pleasing wine.

Cattail Creek Collaboration Fume Blanc 2009 ($25, March 5 release, 4 stars) — A smoky, spicy nose with tropical fruits and subtle oak tones. A nicely styled oaked Sauvignon Blanc with generous fruits, lightly spiced and plenty of finesse on the finish. Tasty.