We’re up to Parts XV, XVI and XVII with plenty more to go before we conclude with Part LII (and I’m starting to find it a pain looking up all these Roman numerals and keeping up the pace to finish in 52 weeks, but soldier on I must).
The wines we’ve looked at to date are mostly from the late-80s through the 90s, nearly all of them from Niagara and mainly from the few winemakers who were making wines that were built to last “back in the day.”
A few winemakers keep popping up as being dependable for crafting long-lasting, top-drawer wines: Stoney Ridge’s Jim Warren, Inniskillin’s Karl Kaiser, Marynissen’s John Marynissen, Chateau des Charmes’ Paul Bosc, Vineland Estate’s Allan Schmidt, and Konzelmann Estate’s Herbert Konzelmann.
All were visionaries of the time, experimenting with vinifera grapes to varying success. They were all blazing a trail in Niagara winemaking and finding out what worked and what didn’t work.
I have been fortunate to try wines from a collector who had a keen eye for the very best of what was being produced in those early days. He followed only the top winemakers and wineries and collected only the best of the best wines of the day.
He was obviously a big fan of Stoney Ridge’s Jim Warren because his wines keep popping up in this series. Warren’s wines have proven to be some of the best wines made in Ontario for the long haul. Two of his older-vintage wines we are featuring below, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Franc.
Here are Parts XV, XVI and XVII of our series #OldNiagara (previous parts can found on this site by searching #oldniagara).
Below that are the featured Niagara wines at the Vintages Christmas (Part III) release this Saturday.
#OldNiagara Part XV
Stoney Ridge Butler’s Grant Vineyard
Pinot Noir 1994
Butler’s Grant is an interesting vineyard located just above the Stoney Ridge winery on King St. between Jordan and Vineland. For many years the fruit was purchased by Creekside winery, which made a fabulous vineyard-designate Riesling from the vineyard’s unique fruit. In recent times I have lost track of where the fruit ended up, but do know that Craig McDonald bought some of the Pinot a few years ago for the Peller family of wines.
To try a Pinot Noir from 1994 was fascinating. I had zero expectations from this wine because of Pinot’s delicate nature and its advanced age of 20 years old.
The cork was removed perfectly in one piece and had tightly sealed the wine inside. The colour was turning brick red on the edges but other than that did not reveal its age.
The first note was one of slight mustiness that blew off eventually, leaving mature fortified cherry, red licorice, raspberry jam and well-integrated baking spices and cedar.
I was pleasantly surprised by the wine in the mouth. It was soft, mellow and had a silky texture with fully ripened red fruits, a touch of licorice and spice. Yes, it was fully mature and should have been consumed years ago, but it was a delight to taste this wine 20 years after
#OldNiagara Parts XVI and Part XVII
Stoney Ridge Cellars The Winemaker’s Reserve
Cabernet Franc 1989
More cork problems, which I’ve seen a lot of with these older bottles, but managed to remove the crumbled bits without getting any debris in the bottle. It had low ullage and a soiled cap, which usually suggests some seepage and trouble.
However, after pouring the wine I found the nose interesting with savoury cherry, old, wet cedar, stewed herbs, well integrated spices and just a whiff of that old attic smell. It was surprising on the palate with notes of maraschino cherry, oak spices, roasted coffee bean and well-integrated herbs. The flavours were fleeting and not long-lived in the glass, but delicious while it lasted. I came back to this wine the next day and it was an entirely different ball game, it had faded quickly to something dead and gone.
Stonechurch Vineyards Cabernet Franc 1997
This was a real treat. The cork and seal were perfect with high ullage and a healthy garnet colour. It had a fascinating nose of crunchy raspberry, violets, mature cherry, bramble and hints of well-integrated spices. It was shockingly tasty on the palate with depth and complexity in the red fruits, raspberry pie, harmonious spices, ripe tannins and just a treat through the finish.
I found the description of this wine on the back label interesting:
“Crimson-garnet colour with a generous nose of raspberry and subtle oak enhanced by tannins, this mouth-filling wine will age gracefully past the Millennium.”
New at Vintages Saturday
It’s Part III of the big Christmas release at Vintages this Saturday and already the big-ticket items have fizzled out and New Year’s Eve Champagnes and other sparkling wines are starting to emerge.
There is only one more release before Christmas and that one will consist of last-minute wines to stock up on for holiday guests.
There are some nice Niagara wines in this release you should consider. Here are the highlights.
Featherstone Canadian Oak Chardonnay 2012 ($22, 90 points) — Fermented with wild yeast, the fermentation took place in oak barrels that are made from oak trees that grow along the Grand River in Brantford. How Canadian! The nose shows poached and spicy pear with hints of green apple and vanilla. It has wonderful texture in the mouth with creamy ripe pear, well-integrated spice and grip through the finish.
Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 ($23, 89 points) — Certified organic and “vegan friendly,” the Triomphe Chard shows a clean attractive nose of pear, apple and citrus fruits with soft vanilla spices. It is bright and lively on the palate with lovely apple, lemon and lime flavours with balancing spices.
Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2012 ($20, 93 points) — With this release of the Elevation St. Urban Riesling, Vineland has merged two classic bottlings at the estate into one. It is a beauty and, in my mind, the best St. Urban at this level I have tasted. Classic limestone minerality is the first note on the nose followed by grapefruit, citrus, and a touch of peach skin. It is simply gorgeous on the palate with fresh, pristine citrus-grapefruit, river rock minerality and light peach notes that are delivered on a taut and electric backbone of searing acidity. Power and complexity will serve this Riesling well for many years to come.
De Sousa Seasons Reserve Meritage 2011 ($20, 89 points)— Another impressive wine for the price from the Diamond Estates family of wines. It’s perfectly aged and ready to drink with a nose of blackberries, currants, cherry, spice and integrated spices. It’s lovely on the palate with mellowing tannins, lovely ripe fruit and everything in balance.
• Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine 2012 ($80 for 375 mL)
• Featherstone Joy Premium Cuvee Sparkling Wine 2010 ($35)
• Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009 ($30)
• Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut 2011 ($23)
• Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2012 ($19)
• 13th Street Sandstone Gamay Noir 2011 ($30)
• Megalomaniac Reserve Series Grounded Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($30)
• Vineland Pinot Meunier 2012 ($18)
• Kew Vineyards Old Vine Riesling 2012 ($19)
• Legends Terroir Semillon 2013 ($17)