The Oct. 3 Vintages release sees the return of Niagara’s 2027 Cellars to the shelves at the LCBO. This is a good thing.
Since owner Kevin Panagapka, above, switched his licence over a year ago from virtual status, operating under the licence of a host winery, to acquiring his own manufacturing licence, consumers have not been able to purchase his wines other than at restaurants or the LCBO.
Panagapka now has the ability to sell his wines directly to restaurants and the LCBO, in the same way that other “modified” virtual wineries, such as Union and Thomas Bachelder, operate.
“It’s my wine now,” Panagapka told me as we tasted barrel samples over a year ago of his upcoming wines deep in the cellar at Featherstone, where he has made his wines in the past. “I own my wines,” he said proudly.
It was a big step for the winemaker, and a scary one, as he is now at the mercy of the LCBO for future sales beyond selling directly to restaurants.
One of his fine Chardonnays leads the Vintages release this Saturday along with some other nice fall wines from Niagara to consider.
2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012 ($30, 90 points) — This is the second release of Chardonnay from the Fox Croft Block of the Wismer Vineyard. The 2012 vintage was quite dry and warm, producing rich Chardonnays. This Chard is 100% barrel fermented with wild yeast strains and aged in 30% new French oak barrels (Allier and Never forests) for 12 months. This is elegant and tight on the nose (when tasted well over a year ago) with poached pear and light spice on a vanilla-toast pillow. The fruit is wrapped in gorgeous French oak, waiting to emerge and unfold. The pear, apple fruits with hazelnut, spice and minerals reveal themselves slowly on the palate. This needs time and has the stuffing to evolve into a more rewarding drop in a year or two.
Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir 2012 ($25, 90 points) — This estate tier Baco from Henry of Pelham shows this varietal at its best. The Speck brothers apply extended maturation and vigorous cap management during fermentation to extract natural and rich fruit. The wine is aged for 15 months in a combination of new and one- to two-year-old American oak. The nose displays spicy raspberry-cherry fruit, a dollop of blueberry jam, wood spices, leather and a touch of smoky black currants. It shows great concentration on the palate with rich cassis and currant fruit to go with rousing spice notes and ripe tannins. Quite a mouthful here and it may need a year or two to better integrate.
Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2013 ($26, 91 points) — Rosewood always does a nice job with Cab Franc. This one is wild fermented and is highly aromatic with thick cherry, herbs, bramble and a rich melange of barrel spices. It has lovely texture on the palate with smooth tannins, bold black cherry fruit, herbs, spice and well balanced through the finish.
Rosewood Select Series Pinot Noir 2012 ($22, 88 points) — A nose of warm black cherry pie, nutmeg and cinnamon with black currant jam. A lovely, comforting Pinot with delicious oak spices on the palate yet balanced out by freshening acidity.
Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cab-Merlot 2010 ($40, flagship stores only, 93 points) — When I think of Henry of Pelham, this is the wine that immediately comes to mind. Anyone who believes Niagara can’t make big, ripe Bordeaux style reds should try this in the best vintages. It performs like it is a Bordeaux with such a beautiful transformation as it ages and sheds the tautness of youth. They are tightly wound on release and eventually come into beautiful harmony if you have the patience, which I suspect you do if you’re shelling out $40 (this was originally $50) for a top-drawer red. The wine spends 18 months in French oak and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The nose shows a brilliant array of black cherry, blackberry and crushed currants with mocha, vanilla and oak spice. It is highly structured on the palate with intense fruit, scorched earth, firm tannins and lovely secondary flavours of chocolate and cassis. Wait for this to come into balance. History tells us that this will be a blockbuster with a few years to soften out in the cellar.
Other wines released but not reviewed:
- Rosewood Harvest Gold Dry Mead 2013 ($15 for 500 mL)
- Stoney Ridge Cranberry Wine 2011 ($17)
- Stratus Red Icewine 2013 ($40 for 200 mL)
- Angels Gate Mountainview Chardonnay 2010 ($20)
- Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013 ($20)
- Kevin O’Leary Trevor Family Reserve Red 2012 ($29)
- Tawse Sketches Cabernet/Merlot 2011 ($21)
- Rochway Vineyards 28-77 Chardonnay 2013 ($15)