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A gorgeous sparkler from Niagara’s Cave Spring and new 2027 wine releases


The Vintages release Saturday features one of the top Niagara white wines as chosen by Wines In Niagara in 2011. Cave Spring Cellars’ Blanc de Blancs, or 100% sparkling Chardonnay, spent an incredible 63 months on the lees. It is one of those rare wines that will be locked in your memory banks for a long time to come after just one sip. It’s that good.
Here are some reviews from the release Saturday as well as tasting notes for 2027 Cellars new wines and a few other treats tasted recently.

get_imageCave Spring Cellars CSV Blanc de Blancs 2004 ($40, Vintages, 93 points) — This has sets the bar for bubbly in Niagara. It spent 63 months on the lees and is labeled under the iconic Cave Springs Vineyard designation, reserved only for the very top wines at the estate. Incredible yeasty-bread aromas to go with lemon-citrus, apple and soft vanilla-toast. It shows gorgeous crispness on the palate, layered fruits and a lively mousse. A spectacular 100% Chardonnay bubbly.

Château des Charmes Old Vines Pinot Noir 2007 ($19, Vintages, 88 points) — This is a re-release of this 2007 Pinot that first hit Vintages shelves in January, 2011. It has progressed nicely with a nose of strawberry-cherry fruits, oak and clove spice, forest floor and vanilla toast. The juicy fruits on the palate are supported by plush tannins and spice. It’s in a good place right now but could take a year or more of cellaring.

Vintage Ink Rite of Passage Chardonnay 2010 ($17, Vintages, 87 points) — From the Vincor group of companies comes this debut standalone label, a 100% VQA Chardonnay made from a blend of three different Niagara vineyards. The nose shows pear, vanilla, tropical fruits and creamy notes. It’s lightly oaked and reveals creamy pear fruit, nice texture and soft, fruity flavours.

df9803fe4164bf6ebf437f8ee880Vintage Ink Mark Of Passion Merlot-Cabernet 2009 ($18, Vintages, 86 points) — From the difficult 2009 vintage, this red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon shows lovely currants, blackberry, cloves, oak, spice and a touch of warm cherries on the nose. It’s a fruit-forward wine, smooth on the palate and built for near-term sipping. Pretty good effort considering the cool vintage.

Other wines being released at Vintages but not reviewed:

Cave Spring Estate Gewurztraminer 2010 ($18)

Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2011 ($17)

Fielding Unoaked Chardonnay 2008 ($14)

Megalomaniac Eccentric Savagnin 2010 ($25)

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rose 2011 ($16)



Virtual winemaker Kevin Panagapka continues to churn out some notable wines from the Featherstone Vineyard facility in Vineland where he makes the wine.

Kevin Panagapka at Cuvee.

Riding a high of Cuvee Gold for his 19th Street Chardonnay (which is sold out, by the way), Panagapka recently added a 2011 Riesling and his new Pinot Noir to his website for purchase.

As past history has shown us, these wines won’t be around for long. Here’s a review of what’s available from the new releases along with a preview of an affordable and delicious Riesling coming to Vintages in the fall.

2027 Cellars Fox Croft Vineyard Riesling 2011 ($25, online only, 91 points) — Winemaker Kevin Panakapka will tell you his first loves are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but, my, oh my, he has a way with Niagara Riesling. His 2011s are sourced from two of his favourite vineyards for Riesling and he makes the most of a terrifying fall harvest that saw rain pummel vineyards in Niagara. The nose is redolent in peach, lemon, tangerine, citrus zest, sweet petrol and mineral. In the mouth, juicy fuzzy peach fruit and tangy citrus play on the palate in a fresh, balanced attack joined on the mid-palate by a vein of wet-stone minerality. One to watch as it ages.

CIMG78342027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Riesling 2011 ($19, fall Vintages release, 89 points) — Most of this sub-$20 Riesling is reserved for a Vintages release in the fall. At this price, it might be worth stocking up on. The nose shows pulpy grapefruit, mineral, white peach and a whiff of petrol. It has wonderful tension between sweet and tart fruits in a fresh and racy style. Another one to put away in the cellar to bring out the mineral notes even more.

2027 Cellars Queenston Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 ($35, online, 90 points) — Panakapka’s Pinots are never ready to drink on release, but being a startup virtual winery, he has to get these wines to market to pay the bills. The wine shows best after several hours of decanting, or better yet, a couple years of cellaring. This is a wild fermented with no filtering or fining. The first aromas are of earth, sweet oak, warm cherries and forest floor notes. But as it opens up, it shows more ripe red fruits and less organic notes. It has a silky feel on the palate with red fruits folding into cedar and spice. Not an overdone Pinot, but rather one that straddles the line between masculine and feminine.


And a couple of other reviews of wines tasted recently:

Chateau des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($15, LCBO, 87 points) — A nose of fresh gooseberry, lime, grapefruit and grassy-herbaceous notes. It’s quite ripe on the palate but balanced with good acidity and herbs folding into the citrus fruits. Clean, fresh and delicious. Grapes are grown at Chateau des Charmes’ St. Davids Bench vineyards.

Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($15, LCBO, 88 points) — This wine used to be a Vintages Essential listing but has now migrated to the general list at the LCBO. It is made grapes grown in HoP’s Short Hills Bench vineyards and is a nice comparison to the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine above. It shows fresh-mown grass, melon, grapefruit and tropical fruit notes. It’s rounder than the Chateau des Charmes with tropical fruits on the palate and subtle grass and herbs.