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Ontario wine reviews for: Five Rows, Coffin Ridge, Coyote’s Run, Malivoire, Nyarai, Inniskillin


Martin Malivoire, the owner of the Beamsville Bench winery that bears his name, set out to make the perfect wine to go with the oysters he loves so much.

To that end, he ordered Muscat vines from France. However, what arrived in Niagara and what was planted, nurtured, and thrived on the Beamsville Bench was not the Muscat he’d requested, but Muscadet, or Melon de Bourgogne, the grape used in the Muscadet appellation in France’s Loire Valley.

melonIt was a happy mistake for Malivoire, and the Melon that’s made and released every spring at the estate has quickly become a much sought-after crisp, fresh, white wine that pairs beautifully with oysters and pretty much all shellfish. I like it even on its own, especially on a hot summer’s day.

Malivoire packages up the wine in 375 mL bottles and the entire production is usually gone before summer starts.

The Melon is one of the wines I have tasted and liked recently including new releases from Five Rows Craft Wine, Coyote’s Run, the virtual winery Nyarai and Owen Sound winery Coffin Ridge.

Malivoire Melon 2011 ($12 for 375 mL, only at the winery and going fast, 88 points) — There’s nothing fancy in the making of this unique Niagara white wine. Just pick the grapes, cool ferment them and finish the job in big stainless steel tanks. The nose shows lemon zest, green apple and lime. It’s about as dry a white wine as you’ll find with a core of zesty citrus flavours, a pinch of flinty minerality and apple skin. Refreshing is an understatement.



five rows

The Lowrey family grows grapes for some of the finest labels in Niagara (Fielding Estate, Creekside, Leaning Post and Bachelder to name a few), including many that were award winners at the recent Ontario Wine Awards. The family excels in Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

A few years ago, Lowrey family son, Wes (seen in the vineyard in the very top photo), decided to make wines from the family vineyards and set about crafting a small, boutique lineup of premium (all numbered bottles) wines from the best parcels of the vineyard, including the original five rows that is the namesake of the winery, Five Rows Craft Wine.

The winery has an active mailing list that buys these wines up quickly, but it’s definitely worth a weekend trip to the small barn where the family sells the wines on the weekends.

Here’s a review of two new releases with a preview of the Pinot Noir to be released later this spring.

Five Rows Craft Wine Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($25, winery, online, 91 points) — Only 100 cases of this were made and followers grab it pretty quick. It’s made with some older barrel oak aging, just to lift the aromatics into the “tropical spectrum,” says winemaker Wes Lowrey. It is quite expressive on the nose with tropical fruits, grass, gooseberry and gorgeous lime and subtle spice. It’s made a touch off-dry but in a juicy, racy style on the palate with tropical fruit, pineapples, star fruit and citrus. A firm core of acidity keeps the juices flowing.

Five Rows Craft Wine Pinot Gris 2011 ($25, winery, online, 89 points) — This Gris sees a little older-barrel French oak and shows lovely aromatics of tropical fruit, melon, light spice notes and some sweet citrus accents. It has weight and texture on the palate with ripe apple, melon and plump fruit flavours through the finish. Made in a slightly off-dry style.

Five Rows Craft Wine Pinot Noir 2009 ($50, winery at the beginning of June, 91 points) — This is one of the last Pinots from the excellent 2009 vintage to be released in Niagara. It spends a full 24 months in 25% new French oak barrels and after that: “I release it when I feel it’s drinking best,” says Lowrey. Fruit is sourced from the original old vine Pinot Noir planting on the property. The nose is pure Pinot funk with woodsy forest floor, earth, beetroot and cherry-cassis with wonderful toasted oak and spice. It’s an evolving wine on the palate with ripe cherry, mineral, layers of spice, plush tannins and length through the finish. Delicious Pinot that will do well in the cellar for three or four years.



coyote merlot

Coyote’s Run has a pile of new releases out, including the first ever vineyard specific Merlot from one of two signature vineyards at the estate — Red Paw.

Here are reviews for some of the new wines either on the shelves or soon to be available.

Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2010 ($22, winery at the end of May, 89 points) — I hope you’re enjoying the Cab Francs coming out of Niagara from the 2010 vintage. I know I am. This is a beauty with a gorgeous nose of dark cherry, cassis, kirsch, funky herbs and spice. The mouth reveals currants, earth, subtle herbs and tobacco with length through the finish. Can cellar for a few years.

Coyote’s Run Black Paw Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2010 ($25, winery at the end of May, 90 points) — I gave a slightly higher score to the Black Paw version of the Cab Franc, only because I find it more structured on the palate. It’s thick and concentrated on the nose with brambly dark fruits, some stewed garden herbs, tobacco leaf and rousing red fruits. It’s firm but juicy on the palate with ripe tannins, good structure, as mentioned, and heft on the palate. The vivid fruits are balanced by good acidity through the finish. Can lay down for five or more years.

coyote roseCoyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Merlot 2010 ($25, winery, 89 points) — This is the first vineyard specific Merlot released by Coyote’s Run. It has a ‘wow’ nose of black cherry, oak spices, clove, cinnamon and licorice. It’s concentrated on the palate, with good structure, intense red and black fruits that’s bolstered by anise and oak-vanilla spice. Can cellar five or more years.

Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Gris 2011 ($18, winery, 88 points) — A bright and expressive nose of apple, melon and fresh fruit salad. It’s lively and fruity on the palate and clean through the finish.

Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir Rose 2011 ($15, winery, 87 points) — And while on the theme of summer wines perfect for the May long weekend, here’s a rose that’s perfect to have around for backyard entertaining. The nose shows cherry fruit and fresh strawberries. It’s refreshing on the palate with meaty red fruits, a touch of cassis and plenty of vibrant acidity. Great sipping rose that would also work with light summer foods.




Nyarai, a South African girl’s name (pronounced na-rye) that means humility, was established in 2008 by Steve Byfield and partner Rodney Ingram.

Byfield is the hands-on proprietor of Nyarai (and also the winemaker at Coffin Ridge, below). His background is in music education but fell in love with the making of wine while paying his way through university by working part-time at different wineries.

Steve-300x209The winery is a so-called “virtual” winery that depends on other wineries for the facilities to make the wine. Byfield, in the left photo, moved his operation from Calamus to DiProfio Wines, a brand new winery that’s just been built in Jordan.

Byfield has quickly established himself as a quality winemaker (his Sauvignon Blanc is consistently one of the best in Niagara) using sourced grapes from the top vintages in Niagara.

He’s just released two core whites, the Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc 2011. His wines are available online here or at the retail store at DiProfio.

Nyarai Cellars Viognier 2011 ($21, 89+ points) — Another solid Viognier from Byfield with such overt aromatics of mango, melon, peach, apple tart and a touch of toasted almond. It’s ripe and round on the palate with exotic stone and tropical fruit that’s bold and tasty through the clean finish. Though ripe and concentrated, there is enough acid zing to balance it out.

Nyarai Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($20, 89 points) — Byfield has transformed his Sauvignon Blanc to a more classic style of grapefruit, zesty lime, herbs, grass, gooseberry and refreshing citrus aromas. It’s very clean on the palate and loaded with citrus zest, mouth-coating tropical fruits and racy acidity. Lovely.




This Grey County winery (near Owen Sound) is owned by Neil and Gwen Lamont and this year hired talented Niagara winemaker Steve Byfield, who also owns his own virtual winery Nyarai Cellars, to make the wines.

The winery is in its seventh vintage with 32 tonnes of grapes harvested from their own vineyard and over 65 tonnes of fruit processed in total for the 2011 vintage. A total of 4,000 cases will be made.

The winery grows an eclectic list of hardy-climate grapes including: Geisenheim 318, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent, Prairie Star, L’Acadie Blanc, Auxerrois (for the whites), Baco Noir, Marchel Foch, Marquette, Leon Millot, Frontenac, Sabrevois, DeChaunac and Chambourcin (for the reds).

I tasted two new whites recently (and included the previously reviewed the Marquette, which, sadly, is not recognized by VQA). Byfield tells me though they are making in-roads with the VQA folk and are on the road to convincing the powers to be to include the variety in the VQA stable of recognized grapes.

Coffin Ridge Into the Light White 2011 ($17, winery only, 87 points) — A crazy blend of Geisenhiem, Riesling, L’Acadie Blanc, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent and Prairie Star. What a nice, off-dry treat for summer. Notes of peach, green apple, citrus and some tropical fruits on the nose. It’s off-dry on the palate, but not overly so, with juicy peach, mango, grapefruit and zesty citrus notes. It flows effortlessly down the hatch.

Coffin Ridge L’Acadie Blanc 2011 ($20, winery, 89 points) — What a delicious and refreshing white. The nose is classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with lime, grapefruit, gooseberry, herbs and grassy notes. It’s pure and clean on the palate with zesty citrus through the finish. Nice.

Coffin Ridge Marquette 2010 (previously reviewed, $22, winery only, 88 points) — Marquette is a hybrid grape developed by the University of Minnesota’s viticultural program and is an off-shoot of Pinot Noir and native North American species. The nose is quite expressive with currants, black cherry, spice and chocolate notes. It’s quite concentrated on the palate with meaty red fruits, plums, cassis and mocha-chocolate notes through the finish.




I recently reviewed some new releases from Inniskillin in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here are a couple more summer wines just released by the winery:

Inniskillin Riesling-Pinot Grigio 2011 ($14, LCBO only, 87 points) — A nose of tangerine, citrus, sweet apple and peach goodness. It’s finished in an off-dry style. All those fruity flavours are carried to the palate. A nice summer sipper for pool-side or the cottage.

Inniskillin Pinot Noir Rose 2011 ($15, Wine Rack only, 87 points) — A nose of black cherry and strawberry. Quite expressive on the palate and made in an easy-drinking style, loaded with red fruits, with a touch of sweetness.