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Harvest in Niagara: Mad dash to the end, plus reviews for Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Lakeview, EastDell, Tawse, Chateau des Charmes, Fielding, Vineland Estates, Malivoire and Henry of Pelham

hiddenThe grape harvest in Niagara is well in hand with most white varieties safely in he house along with early-ripening reds such as Pinot Noir and Gamay.

Left to come in are the Bordeaux reds — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc — that could use a little more late-fall sunshine and heat after a slow start to the growing season.

Wineries are reporting some surprisingly good results with the white grapes, Pinot and Gamay while the verdict on the bigger red varieties remains to be seen. As has been reported over and over again (see this new video from the Weather Network for an update), the brutal winter devastated some varieties in Niagara, including Syrah, Semillon and Merlot, and a late spring and cool summer held back ripening on the Bordeaux reds. A lot of growers were still holding out hope that a warm spell could get the grapes to where they need to be.

cycleFall is a wonderful time of the year in the Niagara. Not only is there activity on the crush pads and in the vineyards as crews scramble to pick and crush grapes but the fall colours are painting a brilliant sight in the vineyards as you tour around the region.

I snapped some shots recently, that’s Hidden Bench in the top photo, at various vineyards and have posted several wine reviews for new releases (or soon to be released wines) from Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Lakeview, EastDell, Tawse, Chateau des Charmes, Tawse, Fielding, Vineland Estates, Malivoire and Henry of Pelham. Here’s what I liked.

The rolling vineyards at Megalomaniac.
Light peaks through the vines at Hidden Bench.
Forgotten grapes that just didn’t make the cut.
The gorgeous view at Flat Rock.
Another popular shot of the barn at Hidden Bench.


Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2012 ($33, winery, Vintages, 92 points) — A bold and attractive nose of bright red fruits, boysenberry, deli meats, white pepper and savoury spices. It has lovely smoky fruit on the palate including raspberry, cherry and blackberry, with a range of savoury spices, gorgeous texture and complexity through the long finish. This is textbook cool-climate Syrah from an excellent vintage. Very well done.

Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($25, winery only, 91 points) — Cabernet Sauvignon is a tough grape to grow in Niagara, but when you get a warm vintage such as 2012, magic can happen. This bold effort shows black currants, cigar leaf, blackberry, a smidge of black cherry and a range of spice notes. It’s full-bodied on the palate with layered dark fruits, integrated spices and firm structure that suggests good aging potential.

Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Merlot 2012 ($25, winery only, 90 points) — Concentrated and rich black cherry, oak spices, earth and complex dark fruit nuances on the nose. It’s generous on the palate with dominant cherry fruit, firm tannins, well structured and loaded with an mélange of spices that are balanced through the long finish.

Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Red Meritage 2012 ($25, winery, Vintages, 89 points) — A nose of dark fruits, earth tones, smoke, cedar, spice and integrated herbs. It’s gorgeous on the palate with dark cassis, currants, ripe cherry, spice, gritty tannins and long finish. A well-balanced red blend that should age well.


Inniskillin Estate Cabernet-Merlot 2012 ($15, winery, LCBO, 88 points) — A bold, forward nose of cassis, currants, crunchy red berries and toasty vanilla and spice. This classic red blend has some structure and ripe tannins on the palate to go with savoury cherry, black currants and well-integrated spices.


Sorting Gamay at Malivoire.
Fresh Gamay ready to be sorted and crushed.

DSC_3496 DSC_3503Malivoire Gamay 2013 ($18, Vintages, winery, 88 points) — Ontario’s fortress of Gamay, Malivoire, does this grape so well on so many different levels. This regular cuvee captures the grape’s true spirit perfectly. It shows wonderful plum and berry fruit on the nose and is lithe and fresh on the palate. Just a wonderful sipping wine that’s clean and vibrant from sniff to swallow.

Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2013 ($20, December release, winery release, 90 points) — Made from hand-harvested grapes with 60% going to stainless steel and the rest in neutral oak barrels. It’s highly aromatic with red currants, plums, kirsch and integrated spice and pepper notes. It has a soft mouth feel but more complexity than the regular bottling with cranberry, sour cherry, red currants, herbs and spice and a freshening vein of acidity. Delicious.

Vineland Estate

conveyor grapes in grapes photddo wholegangVineland Estate Noir “Not Really” 2012-2013 ($20, winery only, 88 points) — A fun wine from winemaker Brian Schmidt that’s non-VQA because of the unusual step of blending 2012 fruit with 2013. It’s a 50-50 blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir with a lovely, fresh nose of cherry, plum and blueberry. It’s fresh and vibrant on the palate combining earthy red fruits with plums and a touch of spice.

Fielding Estate

Fielding Estate Pinot Grigio 2013 ($17, December release, 88 points) — This used to be the regular cuvee Pinot Gris until marketing stepped in and changed it to Pinot Grigio. It’s the same grape, of course, and the same style Fielding has been championing. A nose of melon, apple and pear. It’s clean and fresh on the palate with integrated flavours and good acid lift.

Fielding Estate Red Conception 2012 ($19, December release, 90 points) — A gorgeous vintage is bringing some very nice wines at reasonable prices to market. This is a blend of Cabernet Franc (68%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18%), Syrah (8%) and Petit Verdot (6%). It has an attractive nose of blackberries, currants, black cherry and peppery spices. It shows pretty good structure on the palate with evident tannins and dark fruits highlighted by rich blackberry and earthy-spicy bits. Good value red blend that can age for 5 or more years.


EastDell Black Label Riesling 2013 ($18, winery, LCBO, 88 points) — The label says Niagara Peninsula but there is a distinct note of ginger that suggests at least some of the grapes were sourced from Vinemount Ridge. The nose, along with ginger, shows grapefruit, lime, apple and a lovely mineral component. It’s crisp and perfectly dry on the palate with the full range of citrus fruit, defined minerality, lanolin and racy acidity.

EastDell Black Label Cabernet Shiraz 2011 ($18, LCBO, winery, 89 points) — A good effort here, with a nose of ripe raspberry, cherry, blackberries, currants, cracked peppercorns and spice. It’s lovely on the palate, a well-built wine with ripe red fruits, earth-loam, pepper and some currants on a well-constructed frame. Should age well for a few years in the cellar.


Lakeview Cellars Syrah Cabernet 2012 ($18, winery, 87 points) — Notes of cherry, sweet raspberry, blueberry, currants, violets, spice and pepper on the nose. The juicy raspberry fruit dominates on the palate with light touches of spice. Not a lot of structure, but pleasurable in the short term.


Tawse Riesling Icewine 2013, Niagara ($35 for 200 ml, 93 points) — This is one of the best Icewines I have tried in a long time. The beauty lies in the balance of this sweet wine, not an easy feat with super-sweet icewines. It shows incredible intensity on the nose with sweet tropical fruit, mango, papaya and candied citrus. There is freshness on the palate and depth of fruit in the peach, tropical notes and electrifying lemon and tangerine. All that sweetness is made fresh by wonderful balancing acidity.

Henry of Pelham

photoHenry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Estate Blanc de Blanc Carte Blanche 2009, Niagara ($45, Vintages in November, 92 points) — Looking for a classic bubbly for the holiday season? Consider this homegrown Ontario sparkler that will be released in Vintages stores in November, it’s a beauty. The nose shows lemon, toast, brioche, minerals, green apple and baked bread all wrapped up in myriad citrus notes. It lights up the palate with zesty lemon zing, baked apple, quince with a crisp and laser-sharp beam of acidity. This is an electric sparkling wine that shows youthful exuberance with a tight, energetic mousse. Can age for five or more years. Gorgeous.

Silver Bay Cellars Pinot Noir 2013 ($15, LCBO, 87 points) — Another catchy new label from the brothers Speck at Henry of Pelham. This well-priced Pinot shows bright cherry, loam and vanilla spice on the nose. It has mid-weight on the palate with pleasant cherry and raspberry fruit and light spice notes that is all in balance.

Chateau des Charmes

Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2013 ($26 for 200 Ml, winery, boutiques, 92 points) — A decadent nose of peach compote, apricot, tropical fruits and honey on a brilliantly golden robe. It’s unctuous without being cloying on the palate with peach preserve, apricot marmalade and honey-sweet citrus peel that builds in intensity in the mouth. Such a beautiful sweety that’s all balanced out by good acidity.