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Patrick Chan’s Niagara icewine, classic releases from Foreign Affair and 13th Street, plus Henry of Pelham, Township 7, treats from Burgundy and more


Three-time Canadian world figure skating champion Patrick Chan joins a growing list of athletes and celebrities to launch a wine in Niagara under their name.

Chan’s “On Ice” icewine, made in collaboration with Flat Rock Cellars, is made from Riesling grown in 2013 and is being released at Vintages stores Dec. 12.

“Skating provides me an opportunity to share my craft with everyone around the world,” Chan said when releasing his wine. “This icewine is the perfect complement to skating; it allows me to share a great-tasting icewine with subtle qualities that make it unique.”

Chan joins NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky (Peller), PGA Masters winner Mike Weir, actor and funnyman Dan Aykroyd (Diamond Estates) and now PGA Tour player David Hearn (Rockway Vineyards) to have wine brands made in Niagara. In the case of Gretzky and Weir, they have their own wineries, with Gretzky’s just now under construction.

Elliott Kerr, Chan’s agent with Landmark Sport Group, originally floated the idea with Chan, according to a story by the Canadian Press.


“I watched how golfers have become associated very successfully with the wine industry, whether it’s been Greg Norman or Ernie Els or Mike (Weir), and I said ‘Why not a figure skater?’ ” Kerr told the news agency.

“The golf clubs of the world patronize the golf-associated wines, why not a figure skater? And Patrick being the perfect individual in the context of character, athleticism, determination, all those kinds of things.”

The 24-year-old skater from Toronto, who said he enjoys drinking wine with dinner, made several visits to Flat Rock Cellars to taste and select from the various batches.

He said he’s quite happy with the finished product: “It’s a blast … it really tastes great and it really is subtle and I think that complements my skating perfectly.”

The understated label, decorated in white and gold, represents the white ice sheet with gold circles carved by a skate blade, with a gold maple leaf.

Written on the back, in English and French: “One’s dedication to their craft creates the perfect moment.”

fig-chan-return-20150505On Ice sells for $35 for 200 mL and hits Vintages shelves Dec. 12 but is also available now at Flat Rock Cellars and through the winery’s website. Flat Rock Cellars president and founder Ed Madronich said there are also plans to eventually push it across Canada, and then in Japan and Hong Kong, where Flat Rock already has distribution deals — and where Chan has a huge fan base.

Here’s a review for the Chan icewine, plus two Niagara wines that are being released through the Vintages Classics release online on Dec. 3 and various other wines I’ve tasted recently.

Patrick Chan On Ice Riesling Icewine 2013 ($35, Vintages Dec. 12 and online at Flat Rock Cellars, 91 points) — An expressive nose of sweet quince, apricot, peach, citrus and honey accents. It’s honeycomb-sweet on the palate but nicely balanced by the acidity with gobs of apricot, peach, lemon and mango fruit. Fine balance, much like the man behind the wine.


Ordering for the December Classics Collection begins at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 3 here.

Wedged between the Robert Parker 100-point wines that will set you back hundreds of dollars are a couple of superb Niagara wines you can snag. Here’s what to look for.


The Foreign Affair Gran Q 2010 ($150, December Classics, 93 points) — This is Foreign Affair owner Len Crispino’s dedication to the late Giuseppe Quintarelli, Valpolicella’s most famous maker of Amarone wines. Quintarelli is his hero, the one who inspired him most to follow his path in Niagara. He and his wife Marisa flew to Veneto unannounced to see if they could talk to Giuseppe about making Amarone wines in Canada. Crispino was granted a meeting with the winemaker but arrived a half hour late because the winery is unmarked along a secluded road. Once he found the home and winery of Giuseppe he was made to wait a half hour (the amount of time he was late) before he got a few words with the man. “He told me to ‘follow my dreams and you’ll get what you want,’ ” laughs Crispino. He left but not before asking for a photo, which Giuseppe insisted must be taken with his wife as well. The Gran Q, made from 100% dried grapes, is one of the biggest wines I have tasted from Niagara, made from grapes (Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot) dried for an average 90 days. The wine was aged for 24-28 months in 80% new French oak. The nose is astonishing; gobs of black currant compote, rich, thick cassis, leather, graphite and sweet spices. The whopping 17.5% alc on the palate is backed up by luxurious, sweet and complex dark fruits, well-defined tannins and an array of spices that echo on the finish. Drink heartily, but serve with grilled red meat.


13th Street Grand Cuvée Blanc de Noir 2007 ($59, December Classics, 93 points) — A gorgeous and generous nose of lemon and brioche, green apple and fresh baked bread with creamy vanilla and toast accents. It’s built in an austere style with chiselled acidity and a fine mousse that tickles the palate and gives way to fresh apple and lemon flavours. Tertiary notes of warm toast, custard and tangy minerality add to the complexity of this well-built sparkler. Drinking rather well right now but can cellar a wee bit longer to draw out further nuances.


A pair of new releases from Henry of Pelham in Niagara:

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2014 ($20, 88 points) — This is a lightly oaked (25% of the fruit spent 10 months in oak) Chard with a nose of creamy, but fresh, apple, pear and citrus with subtle spice notes. It is quite vibrant on the palate with citrus, green apple and well-integrated spice that is lively through the finish.


Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Riesling 2013 ($25, 92 points) — Made from Riesling grown on the oldest vines (planted in 1984) in the estate Short Hills Bench vineyard, the nose is gorgeous with lime, ginger, grapefruit and apple with steely minerality. It is robust on the palate with mouth-filling citrus fruit and an attractive ginger note that is kept fresh and lively from a firm acidic backbone. Like all Rieslings at this level from Henry of Pelham, will improve with age in the bottle for years to come.


New releases from B.C.’s Township 7

cache_220_500_3_0_80_Township-7-gewurztraminer-2014-bottle-shotTownship 7 Gewurztraminer 2014 ($17, 88 points) — Sourced from the Naramata Bench, the nose shows pulpy grapefruit, ginger, nutmeg, rose petals and lychee nut. It has lovely balance on the palate with spicy grapefruit and fine acid to balance everything out. Made in a dry style.

Township 7 Rock Pocket Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2013 ($28, 89 points) — A nose of cassis, currants, herbs, mingling red fruits, sweet tobacco and spice. It’s generous on the palate with rich and spicy fruit, earth, bramble and a nice herbal note on the finish.

Township 7 Merlot 2013 ($23, 90 points) — An attractive, inviting nose of black cherry, kirsch, cassis, raspberry, cigar box cedar and spice. The rich, red fruits are bolstered by earthy/tobacco notes on the palate with dusty tannins, licorice and spice. Already well-balanced but worthy of more age in the cellar.

resTownship 7 Reserve 7 2013 ($33, 92 points) — A five-varietal red blend of most Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with an attractive nose of concentrated cherry, black currants and blackberry followed by barrel spice notes, earth, and dried tobacco. The fruit is mouth-filling with a mélange of dark fruits with licorice, tar, earth and loaded with elegant oak spice. This is a complex, concentrated and structured red with a long life ahead in the cellar.


A killer Chablis to watch for in next Vintages release:


Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 2012 ($34, Vintages Dec. 12, 93 points) — This Premier Cru Chardonnay is made from grapes planted in 1980 on very steep south-facing slopes. It is aged 12 to 18 months in stainless steel vats before bottling without any oak aging. So beautiful with a nose of meadow wild flowers, acacia, intense chalky minerality, a range of citrus and apple fruit with a touch of smoke. It is finessed and focused on the palate with lemon zing, green apple, a powerful vein of minerality, earthiness and that lovely tension that is so desirable in cru Chablis. The intensity builds on the palate and travels on a long finish. Best to cellar up to five years.


More Burgundy and a tasty Barbera for good measure:


Collovray & Terrier Domaine des Deux Roches Saint-Veran Tradition 2014 (Price N/A, 89 points) — From one of the few vineyards in Burgundy with a southerly aspect, the nose show creamy pear, green apple and subtle citrus accents. It has good verve and freshness on the palate with poached pear, coconut, apricot and spice notes.

Collovray & Terrier Domaine des Deux Roches Saint-Veran Les Terres Noires 2014 (Price N/A, 90 points) — A lovely river-rock mineral note to open up with pear, apple and well-integrated spice notes following. This is a well-balanced Chardonnay with ample stone fruit, citrus accents and a creamy, elegantly spiced core. Wonderful finesse and finish to this tasty white.

Collovray & Terrier Domaine des Deux Roches Pouilly-Fuisse Vieilles Vignes 2014 (Price N/A, 91 points) — A gorgeous nose of pear, apple and rich barrel oak spices and subtle minerality. It has a creamy feel on the palate with flinty minerality, apples and citrus but maintains lovely finesse and freshness through the finish.

Michele Mascarello Grandeur Barbera d’Alba 2012 (Price N/A, 90 points) — A rich and spicy nose of summer strawberries, wild raspberry, oak spices, kirsch and underlying black currants. The palate reveals smoky red fruits enriched with licorice, toasted vanilla, spice, roasted coffee bean with plenty of structure and ripe tannins. Lovely drop.