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Hey, Blue Jays, up your “champagne” game, plus Vintages Oct. 15 highlights, new Nyarai, Ravine Peach Cider, La Crema and more


Vintages releases a fairly robust lineup of Niagara wines on Oct. 15, just in time to load up for the mighty Blue Jays’ run for the World Series.

Can this be the year? Can it? The way they are playing right now, they seem destined to win it all. With each milestone reached — making the wild-card game, winning the wild-card game and then winning the ALDS series 3-0 over the pesky Texans — a lot of cheap sparkling wine and bad beer has been spilled in that locker room.

Time to reassess the selection of celebratory drinks  being consumed by Canada’s team.

So, this Vintages report of Niagara wines being Saturday is dedicated to Ed Wing, Joey Bats, Bringer of Rain, Superman and all those Jays on a path to destiny. There’s a little of everything here including recommended Vintages wines, a very fine vintage dated bubbly from Henry of Pelham (and a selection of sparkling CANADIAN wines that will be a lot better than what the Jays are pouring all over themselves now) , a Prosecco, and new wines from Nyarai, EastDell and even a delicious new peach cider from Ravine.

Go, Jays, Go!

Niagara wines from Vintages’ Saturday release:

cq5dam-web-1280-1280Creekside Laura’s Red 2012 ($20, 90 points) This combines all five Bordeaux red grapes and adds a splash of Syrah, about 4%, because winemaker Rob Power likes the “spice it brings.” A great wine for $20 with an expressive nose of black currants, ripe black cherry, blackberries and a lovely spicy-oak note. It is substantive and bold on the palate with thick black fruits, cherry, pepper, licorice and fine tannins. Aging well.


Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2013 ($30, 92 points) — Designed as a pure expression of the Twenty Mile Bench terroir and made from the “best of the best” of the vineyard and the cellar. Gravity is always consistent and this is no different with a nose of bright red fruits, some dark berry elements, then elegant oak stylings and savoury notes that turn prettier as you let it breathe. It has beautiful texture and flavours on the palate and finely balanced with oak and earthy undertones that all lead to a silky finish.

cq5dam-web-1280-1280-1Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 ($35, 93 points) — The top Pinot from Henry of Pelham that’s in a very good place at the moment with still plenty of room to improve. It has a complex nose of baked cherry fruit with notes of raspberry, bramble, red currants and well-integrated spices. It’s harmonious on the palate and highly structured with the range of ripe fruits and savoury bits melting into the elegant spice and softening tannins. This is everything you want in a nicely maturing Niagara Pinot.

Also released Saturday but not reviewed:

  • Cave Spring Pinot Gris 2013 ($18)
  • Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2013 ($25)
  • Fielding Estate Bottled Riesling 2015 ($20)
  • Mike Weir Limited Edition Riesling 2014 ($20)
  • Redstone Chardonnay 2013 ($19)
  • Vineland Estate Pinot Blanc 2015 ($18)
  • Rockway Vineyards Reserve Red Assemblage 2013 ($18)
  • The Foreign Affair Pinot Noir 2010 ($35)

A couple of international wines to look for:

original_107207Tenuta S. Anna Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene DOCG ($20, released Oct. 3 at Vintages, 89 points) — Just a delightful and classic Prosecco at price hard to ignore. It has a nose of citrus, pear, white peach and toasty/salinity notes to go with a vigorous mousse. The palate reveals generous flavours of lemon, citrus rind, peach and apple with subtle toasted almonds that all lead to a zesty finish.


La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2014, Oregon ($38, released at Vintages Oct. 29, 91 points) — Beautiful nose of woodsy black cherry, cassis, violets, ripe plum and baking spices. It’s both supple and succulent on the palate with a rich broth of cherries, plums, raspberries, espresso bean, earth and will-integrated spices. Lovely Pinot.

Available now at Niagara wineries:

Ravine Vineyard:


Ravine Lowry Brothers Peach Cider ($11 for 750 mL bottle, winery, 90 points) — This follows in the footsteps of the original apple cider made by Martin Werner, in other words, made in a perfectly dry and fresh style where he lets the fruit do all the talking. It’s made exclusively from 100% free-run peach juice (crushed, not pressed) from Lepp Farm peaches. It’s fermented in stainless steel tanks to produce a dry, crisp cider that celebrates fresh Niagara fruit. Don’t expect to be hit over the head with peach flavours, it’s more subtle than that and offers up genuine fresh peach flavours in a harmonious style that is all together a satisfying and refreshing sip of goodness. No sugar, no tricks, just farm to bottle deliciousness. Love it. They don’t have a lot of it, so get it while you can.

Nyarai Cellars


Nyarai Reve 2014 ($23,, 89 points) — Never heard of Nyarai or its owner/winemaker Steve Byfield? A pity, because Nyarai is an excellent virtual winery that always punches outside its weight class in Niagara. Byfield has paved his way with several stints at some of Niagara’s top wineries — Southbrook, Ridgepoint, Calamus, Thomas and Vaughan and currently Coffin Ridge — but he puts his heart and soul into Nyarai’s small collection of terroir-driven wines. The Reve (to dream) is a return to the winery’s white assemblage efforts, combining Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. This has a wonderful nose of apple, citrus, pear, apricot and integrated oak spices. Quite elegant at this price with the barrel spices more overt on the palate to go with ripe apricot, baked apple and citrus zing on the finish.


Nyarai Viognier 2015 ($23,, 91 points) — Byfield loves this grape and it shows. The nose displays notes of mango, fuzzy peach, white flowers and nectarine. It has lovely texture on the palate and is made in a relatively dry expression with ripe tropical fruits, peach, pear and an elegant beam of fine oak spice.


Nyarai Cadence 2012 ($23,, 91 points) — A late released 2012 blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Syrah. It has a rich, inviting nose of currants, plums, bramble and oak spices. The firm tannins are still evolving on the palate and lift the dark berries, earth, bramble and fine spice notes. Plenty of acidity to carry this beauty in the cellar for a few years to come. Nice.

Henry of Pelham


Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Estate Blanc de Blanc Carte Blanche 2011 ($45, 92 points) — HoP’s top sparkler is made from hand-picked 100% estate Chardonnay from the Short Hills Bench. The best of the best juice is isolated, partially barrel fermented (20%) and then aged for 60 months in the bottle before being disgorged. Such a treat and always one of the top sparklers in Ontario. The nose shows lemon, toast, brioche, vanilla, apple and lime and pours a fine, persistent bead of bubbles. It’s bright and electric on the palate with flavours of lemon and lime, baked apple, toasted almond, spice with lovely freshness and finesse through the finish. Plenty of room to age and gain complexity and weight with time in the cellar.

Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2015 ($15, LCBO, 88 points) — This is from the “classic” tier at Henry of Pelham, made in a fresh, unoaked style with some lees aging. It’s loaded with zesty citrus, apple and pear with some creamy notes on the nose. It’s bright and fresh on the palate with zippy citrus, apple and cream all bolstered by racy acidity.

EastDell Wines

EastDell Gamay Noir 2014 ($14, LCBO, 87 points) — The nose shows cherries, plums, spice and earthy notes. It’s soft and juicy on the palate with red fruits and subtle gamy and earthy notes on the finish.

EastDell Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 ($14, LCBO, 88 points) — Quite flinty on the nose with pear, peach and underlying citrus notes. Lovely texture and purity of fruit on the palate. Feels and tastes like more than a $14 Chardonnay.

Dear Blue Jays … try these Canadian sparkling wines
to douse yourselves in:

Cave Spring Cellars Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, Niagara ($30, 93 points) — Traditionally made sparkler with 30 months on the lees, this is simply gorgeous on the nose with bright apple, ripe pear, toasty-yeasty notes and profound minerality. It is complex and elegant on the palate with a tight bead of bubbles and shows a range of orchard fruits, lemon, toast, roasted almonds and laser-sharp acidity through the finish.

Chateau des Charmes Blanc de Blancs 2012, Niagara ($29, 93 points) — Traditional method Chardonnay that spends 24 months on the lees. The nose shows an inviting range of toast, lemon, crisp apple and fresh baked bread notes. It’s finely balanced on the palate with tight bubbles that pop and crackle in the glass and shows creamy apple and pear, brioche, toast, citrus that all lead to a refreshing, lasting lemony finish.

Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Sparkling Merlot 2013, Niagara ($30, 92 points) — Those who like their sparklers rich, bold and able to pair with red meats, look no further. Pouring a robust head of bubbles, this sparkler has a nose of black cherries, crème de cassis, black currants and rich spice notes. It’s thick and juicy on the palate but still shows some balance between the ripe and earthy red fruits and racy acidity.

Westcott Vineyards Brilliant Sparkling Brut 2013, Niagara ($33, 92 points) — Traditionally made sparkler from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It has a gorgeous and complex nose of perky citrus, apple, flinty minerality and toasty biscuit. It shows bright acidity and persistent bubbles on the palate with a range of citrus and apple fruit, brioche and toasted almond through a long, vibrant finish.

Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut 2012, Niagara ($25, 91 points) — This Pinot/Chard blend spends 24 months on the lees. It shows an elegant combination of biscuit, citrus, apple, vanilla toast and brioche on the nose. It’s lively and perky on the palate with bright citrus, green apple and added toast and vanilla on a refreshing finish.

Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Niagara ($30, 89 points) — Traditionally made Sauvignon Blanc that spends 12 months on the lees. The nose shows lovely herbaceous notes of melon, citrus, fresh hay, grass and citrus with biscuity undertones. It’s bright and lively on the palate with a vigorous mousse to go with citrus and herbs through a sparkly finish.

Konzelmann Methode Cuve Close Rose, Niagara ($16, 89 points) — Lovely, friendly sparkling rose with a nose of strawberry, cherry, violets and subtle cassis notes. It’s tart and lively on the palate with bright red fruits that soften through the finish.

Konzelmann Methode Cuve Close Riesling, Niagara ($16, 88 points) — A spritzy entry with a nose of expressive lime, grapefruit, apple and mineral notes. It has a firm acidic backbone, mellowing bubbles, citrus and floral notes on a refreshing finish.

Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Sparkling Shiraz Methode Classique NV, Okanagan Valley ($26, 88 points) — A fun, bold sparkler that shows modest effervescence in the glass with a range of forward fruits including cassis, blueberry, black cherry and blackberry with added spice notes on the nose. It’s rich and complex on the palate with some tannic structure to go with layers of dark fruit and spice.

Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Sparkling Gewurztraminer NV, Okanagan Valley ($22, 88 points) — Lively mousse with an attractive nose of citrus, pineapple, lychee, guava and fresh apple. It’s perky and refreshing on the palate with a range of lemon, lime and tropical notes.