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Bachelder’s astonishingly delicious 2010 Wismer Chardonnay, Baker’s Picone Riesling highlight Vintages release

Nuits-Saint-Georges-Avec Thomas avec ses 1ers raisins de Puligny dans le pressoir

Niagara vigneron extraordinaire Thomas Bachelder is preparing to release his first Pinot Noirs from three regions this fall along with the rest of his 2011 wines, but consumers are in for a treat July 20 when his tour de force Winfield Block Chardonnay 2010 is released.

Bachelder has been turning heads with tri-regional project — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made the same way from select vineyards in Burgundy, Niagara and Oregon — as they slowly make their way to Vintages shelves and restaurant wine lists.

Because Bachelder is a “virtual” winery, in Ontario that means he can only sell his wines through the government monopoly (SAQ in Quebec) as he does not have a tasting/retail store, consumers have to pounce when they are released.

On Saturday, his greatest wine to date is being released, the 2010 Chardonnay from a specific block in the famed Wismer Vineyard.

This wine is exquisite and if you want to taste just how good Niagara Chardonnay can be, this is it.

And while you’re at it, you are advised to pick up a bottle or two of Charles Baker’s Picone Vineyard Riesling 2010. Baker only makes Riesling (he, also, runs a virtual winery) and this is his greatest expression of the grape from one of the sweet spots in Niagara, Vinemount Ridge.

Here are my picks for the best of Niagara from the release July 20:

CIMG0124Bachelder Wismer Vineyard ‘Winfield Block’ Chardonnay 2010 ($45, 94 points) — Wow! A stunner. Thomas Bachelder calls the famed Wismer Vineyard a Grand Cru of Niagara. But Bachelder goes one better and sources his Chardonnay from a specific block from Wismer’s coveted vineyards. The wine took nearly a year to ferment, as Bachelder likes all his wines to ferment naturally in the cellar. It is a big, showy Chard that makes a statement from the first sniff. Poached pear, fresh-baked apple pie, waves of flint and stony minerality, and then the creamy vanilla spices, toffee and elegant oak that is integrated rather than over-powering chimes in. It has flesh on the palate with bold fruit matching rich and toasty spices and balanced out by racy acidity. It’s a powerful and stylish Chard with hedonistic flavours that all lead to a gloriously long finish. Bravo!

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2010 ($35, 91 points) — The grapes for this Riesling were picked late despite the heat of the vintage but is finished with less residual sugar (14 grams per litre compared to 27 g/l for the 2009). It shows ripe grapefruit, green apple, floral and mineral notes on the nose (I noted some subtle white pepper aromas on retrying the wine). It’s technically less dry on the palate but the fruits are riper, giving it a rounder feel in the mouth. Baker says aside from a little less residual sugar the wine is made virtually the same. “It’s just vintage variation, pure and simple.” I love the texture in Baker’s Rieslings and even though it’s from a warmer vintage it still shows classic tension and acidity through the finish. I sense the 2009s and 2008s will outlast the 2010 vintage in the cellar, but this is a beauty for drinking now or two or three years down the road. A must for that CB vertical.

8945197219_3405287f70Chateau des Charmes Estate Chardonnay Musque 2010 ($17, 89 points) — Such a lovely, pure white wine with lemon, citrus, honeysuckle, peach and white flower notes on the nose. It’s clean and delicious on the palate and still fresh with ripe fruit flavours of apple, peach, citrus, and a tiny kiss on honey on the finish. Nicely aged and ready to drink.

Tollgate Fume Blanc 2009 ($25)

Union Squared White 2012 ($18)

Angels Gate Mountainview Pinot Noir 2011 ($24)

Angels Gate Mountainview Chardonnay 2010 ($19)

Cave Spring CSV Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2010 ($30)