Cider/BeerNiagara Wine ReviewsTop Stories

Christmas wine release Part 1: Ontario highlights at Vintages, plus new reviews for Fielding Estate, Henry of Pelham, West Avenue Cider, and Sulker’s Cider


Wow. Christmas already. We just put away the Halloween decorations but as I look down the street the Christmas decorations are already going up. It’s too soon!!!

But not too soon for our government monopoly, the LBCO, to unload an avalanche of Christmas wines with its first big release of the holiday season. The release Saturday ramps up the average price by a hefty margin as the expected Christmas crush of shoppers floods Vintages stores this Saturday.

We run down a few highlights of Niagara wines from the release, plus:

• New wine reviews for Fielding Estate and Henry of Pelham
• Canadian highlights from Waddingtons Fine Wine Auction online Nov. 14;
• Niagara highlights from the Vintages Classic Catalogue November edition
• Ontario Craft Cider Reviews

Saturday Vintages highlights for Ontario wines


Hidden Bench Terroir Cache Meritage 2012 ($38, 91 points) — Hidden Bench sources the fruit for this 46% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Malbec blend from its three organically certified estate vineyards. The wine is aged in 100% French oak, nearly half of which is new oak, for 21 months. It’s a treat to see this fine Right Bank Bordeaux inspired blend hit the shelves of our grand government-run monopoly. Such a nose of juicy red and dark fruits, graphite, roasted coffee bean, cedar, and savoury spice notes. It’s framed by assertive tannins and suggests time in the cellar to integrate all the moving parts on the palate. Shows rich black cherry, currants, forest floor and a range of barrel spices that will reward with 5+ years in the cellar.


Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc 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 Estate Chardonnay 2014 ($20, 88 points) — Quite expressive on the nose with ripe apple, peach, citrus and toasted spice notes. It’s round and ripe on the palate with orchard fruit flavours, barrel spices and lifted acidity through the finish. Delicious.

Other Niagara wines being released but not reviewed:

• Mike Weir Limited Edition Merlot 2013 ($25)
• The Foreign Affair Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($40)
• Wildass Merlot 2014 ($19)
• Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine 2014 ($80 for 375 mL)
• Lakeview Cellars Riesling Icewine 2012 ($35 for 200 mL)
• Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyards Cabernet Icewine 2013 ($45 for 375 mL)
• Cave Spring Riesling CSV 2014 ($30)
• Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2013 ($35)
• Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling 2015 ($18)
• Pillitteri Gewurztraminer 2013 ($18)
• Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($19)

Flagship stores only:

• Coyote’s Run Rare Vintage Pinot Noir 2013 ($40)

November Classics Collection:


13th Street Grand Cuvee Blanc de Noirs 2007 ($60, 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.

• Domaine Queylus Grande Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 ($60)

Waddingtons Fine Wine Online Auction (bidding starts online Nov. 14):

Lot 440 (estimate/reserve $200 for two mags)
British Columbia
British Columbia

New wine reviews for Fielding Estate
and Henry of Pelham

Note: Reviews are from Michael Lowe (ML) and Rick VanSickle (RV)

cq5dam-web-1280-1280Fielding Estate Red Conception 2015 ($20, 89 points) – Black fruits abound, both on the nose and palate. Lush black cherry, blackcurrants and spice notes push through the middle and into the medium-long finish backed up by lip-smacking acidity. Drinking well now but will develop over the next 3- 4 years. (ML)

Fielding Estate Gamay 2015 ($19, 88 points) — A bright, cheerful nose on this easy to like Gamay with a melange of plums, cherries and spice notes. Shows a basket of red berries and plums on the palate with freshening acidity. Best served slightly chilled. (RV)

Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2014 ($22, 88 points) — An intense nose of red berries, barrel spices, cloves, licorice and fine herb accents. Good structure on the palate supports the red fruits, bramble and earthy/spicy profile. (RV)

Fielding Estate Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($40, 88 points) – A taut, austere Pinot that shows restrained cherry, raspberry and hints of plum at present. Youthful tannins need time to soften, but the fruit should carry through. Give it a couple of years to come together. (ML)

Fielding Estate Riesling 2015 ($20, 90 points) – Lifted lime and tangy green apple are the calling cards of this pure expression of Riesling. Fairly high acid offsets the off-dry character with stony mineral notes making for a very easy-drinking wine. Pair with coconut milk based curries or shellfish of any kind. (ML)

Henry of Pelham Family Tree Red 2014 ($19, 90 points) – Five components make up this blend led by Syrah, with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a little Baco Noir completing the recipe. Look for smoke, black cherry, blackberry and anise to persist on the palate tapering to plum, clove/cinnamon, pepper and supple tannins on the finish. A very good value that will pair well with roasted lamb or beef or smoky ribs. (ML)

Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2015 ($50, 92 points) – Expresses ripe pear, peach and honey with some apricot in the background. Delicately nuanced, with nice balanced acidity showing now but should develop more dried fruit over the next 10 years or so. (ML)

Ontario Craft Cider reviews

Note: Wines in Niagara receives many Ontario craft ciders for possible review. Some are in the experimental phase, others will be released to select bars and restaurants mainly in the Toronto area. We generally don’t know what the price will be when it gets to the bar. So, we offer straight reviews without price or score (because we do not know what the final cider will become):


Sulker’s Cider The Passion of Hops — This is a dry 100% Ontario cider infused with passion fruit and dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops and finished unpasteurized, unfiltered with no preservatives. A beautifully fragrant cider with a lot going on on the nose. I pick up a wild raspberry thing going on with Mandarin orange … like putting your nose inside a bag of Maynard wine gums. Interesting mash of passion fruit, ginger, subtle hoppiness, lychee and fresh apple/raspberry notes. Interesting, to say the least.


West Avenue Cider School Yard Crabapple Cider (bottle conditioned) — Pure funk on the nose with crabapple, earth, barnyard and bruised apple notes. It’s tart and fresh on the palate with racy acidity that’s intense and lip-smacking good. For cider geeks.


West Avenue Bohemian Raspberry Cider (bottle conditioned) — I will drive a long way to get some of this when West Avenue owner/cider maker Chris Haworth releases this to the world. It’s made with barrel fermented Niagara raspberries that rest in barrel for 2.5 years and is bottle conditioned for four months. The nose shows earthy raspberry, bramble, mushrooms, bourbon, barrel spices, barnyard funk with a lovely mix of red berries. Firm acidity drives this riot of funky raspberry that’s spiced and tart, but not overly sour, in fact, quite pleasing and balanced on the palate. Could drink this all day. Simply delicious and nothing quite like that I have tasted from Ontario.