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Pink bliss at Vintages’ Niagara wine release Saturday, plus new Kacaba wines, and four world wines under $15 for summer

Niagara wines

By Rick VanSickle

A pair of pinks and a duo of Rieslings (including the oft-shunned Pearl Morissette Black Ball offering) highlight the Niagara wines being released Saturday at Vintages.

Also in this report, a gorgeous Pinot Noir from Thomas Bachelder’s Burgundy portfolio makes an appearance at Vintages, Thirty Bench’s top Rieslings make June Classics Collection roster, plus four summer international wines under $15 and new releases from Kacaba.

Hitting shelves at Vintages Saturday

Top Vintages wines

Chateau des Charmes Sparkling Rosé 2014 ($30, 90 points) — This traditionally-made sparkler is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and spends two years on the lees. It shows lovely strawberry, raspberry, toasted notes and minerals with a medium, persistent mousse. It has wonderfully creamy texture and is more rounded on the palate with rich red fruits and a smoky/brioche note on the finish.

Chateau des Charmes Cuvée D’Andrée Rose 2015 ($16, 88 points) — Named after the estate’s matriarch Madame Andrée Bosc, this 100% Pinot rosé is quite aromatic and shows a pretty pink hue. Look for strawberries, cranberries and cherries that are fresh on the nose. It’s medium sweet on the palate with a ripe red fruit presentation that will pair nicely with all your backyard summer meals.

Best Ontario winesHidden Bench Estate Riesling 2015 ($24, 90 points) — One of the cool things you’ll now see on the back label of all Hidden Bench estate wines made from 2015 on from Hidden are the words: Certified Organic by Pro-Cert. While Hidden Bench’s vineyards have always been organically farmed, the certificate now adorns all bottles as an assurance for consumers. The estate Riesling is a blend of the three estate vineyards and has a nose of lime, peach and grapefruit and oozes limestone minerality. It’s austere on the palate with perfect balance between ripe fruit and acid with citrus, minerals and peach flavours through a zesty finish.

Flagship Vintages stores only

Best Niagara wines

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Black Ball Riesling 2014 ($36, tasted before it was bottled, no score) — I won’t get into the whole naming of this “Black Ball” Riesling but feel free to get caught up with this post. The 2014 version is the first of Francois Morissette’s Rieslings to be fermented in concrete egg. The nose shows vivid lime, grapefruit, white flowers, lanolin, ginger and a reductive note. It’s intense and structured on the palate with lemon curd, lime and racy acidity that elevates the silky texture of the wine.

Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits-Saint-Georges 2011, Burgundy ($50, 93 points) — The Thomas Bachelder style shines through all his Pinots from Niagara to Oregon to Burgundy. They are never overdone, and always show a sense of graceful power and finesse. This gorgeous wine displays fruits of anise, raspberry, ripe cherry and cassis with pretty floral and incense notes. The tannins are evident but smooth and the ripe fruits are bolstered by crunchy minerality and light savoury spice through a long finish. Buy, hold and enjoy years down the road.

Also released from Niagara but not reviewed:

  • Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers Sweet Vermouth ($20)
  • Rockway Vineyards Red 2015 ($15)

Thirty Bench from Classics Collection

A couple of benchmark Rieslings made it into the June Classics Collection from Vintages. Ordering begins June 1 with details here.

Both of these are highly recommended:

Thirty Bench Small Lot Wood Post Riesling 2014 ($30, 93 points) — Wood Post sat out the 2013 vintage as a single-vineyard offering with winemaker Emma Garner making a “Wild Cask” Riesling from a blend of estate Riesling instead. The Wild Cask is back for 2015, with Triangle Vineyard taking a break. I’m glad Wood Post is back, this is the vineyard I am drawn to because it’s so damn good every time I taste it and it ages beautifully. The nose starts slow but builds as you swirl it in the glass and opens up to citrus and apple notes with fine minerality and salinity. It’s fully realized on the palate, a lush offering with some weight and power that drives the ripe range of fruits and leads to a long finish with lovely, defining minerals. A generous offering with electric energy. A beauty.

Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Riesling 2014 ($30, 91 points) — Most collectors of Thirty Bench single-vineyard Rieslings know instinctively to cellar these wines for a few years to let them round out and develop. These are serious wines, with depth, complexity and spark intellectual debate when you taste the three Small Lots side by side. The Steel Post has such depth on the nose with layers of lime, ripe apple, grapefruit and pure minerality. The electric acidity on the palate has “tension like a coiled spring,” says Garner, and flavours of lime, grapefruit and a subtle note of ginger. Age five to 10 years.

Not too late to buy this classic Niagara red from the Classics Collection May release:

Chateau des Charmes Equuleus 2012 ($42, 93 points) — The flagship red from this estate is always a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% of both Cabernet Franc and Merlot that’s made only in the warmest vintages in Niagara. This is the best Equuleus yet, a more modern style that’s approachable now yet will age for 10-20 years. The nose shows rich cherry, a touch of raspberry and then lavish cassis, concentrated black currants and fine oak spices. It is smooth on the palate with generous fruit flavours, fine tannins and integrated spices that echo on the long finish. This was decanted for three hours before tasting at the Chateau.

Four world wines under $15 at the LCBO

With living moving outdoors and neighbours starting to make their rounds from a deep winter slumber, it’s sage advice to have plenty of fluids on hand, the fermented kind, of course.

Here are four from different corners of the world I’ve tasted recently that cover most styles and won’t break the bank.

Lamberti Santepietre Pinot Grigio 2015, Italy ($12, LCBO, 86 points) — As far as white wines go, Pinot Grigio (sometimes called Pinot Gris) is certainly the biggest crowd pleaser. This one, at $12, offers great value with a nose of tropical fruits, lemon and fresh apple notes. It’s ripe but maintains freshness on the palate with a range of fruit and just a hint of sweetness.

Fleur de Cap Chardonnay 2015, South Africa ($13, 87 points) — A nose of creamy pear, apple, citrus, vanilla spice and toasted oak. The oak spices are kicked up a notch on the palate with pear, apple and citrus zest on the finish.

Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2015, Argentina ($13, 87 points) — A nose of spicy raspberry, pepper, cherry, cedar, red licorice and plums. It turns savoury on the palate with bold red fruits, cracked black pepper and a vibrant finish. BBQ wine.

Montecillo Crianza Rioja 2011, Spain ($15, 88 points) — This popular Tempranillo is nicely aged, as Riojas should be, with a nose of plums, earth, cassis and light spice. It’s perfectly mature right now with integrated fruit, smooth tannins and a spicy bite from the sweet oak. A bit rustic on the finish, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

New wine releases from Niagara’s
Kacaba Vineyards and Winery

We’re on the cusp of summer and Niagara wineries have a bounty of new wine releases to share to go with a plethora of wine-soaked events to choose from. Wines In Niagara’s Monica Kosior runs down the key events this spring and summer. Check out her events package here. If you’re just touring and tasting, Kacaba is highly recommended. Here are some new and upcoming wines to look for.

Kacaba Jennifer’s Pinot Gris 2016 ($18, winery, 88 points) — A lovely, fragrant nose of peach, apricot and melon. It’s ripe and laden with peach, lychee, apple and citrus that fresh, clean and delicious through the finish.

Kacaba Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($18, winery, 88 points) — This is a return to the Kacaba portfolio after a bit of a hiatus. Sharp, fresh aromatics of gooseberries, tangerine, lime and apple. It’s more rounded on the palate with a range of tropical and citrus fruits that are fresh and vibrant on the finish.

Kacaba Rebecca Rosé 2016 ($18, winery, LCBO, 88 points) — A nose of candied red fruits, red licorice, watermelon and cranberries. It’s a friendly and easy-to-drink pink with an abundance of red fruits, touch of sweetness and mouth-watering acidity.

Kacaba Meritage 2015 ($25, winery, 90 points) — The blend is 85% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot with aging in a combination of French and American oak barrels. Shows a dark red hue in the glass with a rich and concentrated nose of plums, cherries, kirsch, currants and range of barrel oak spices. Shows good balance on the palate with darker fruits, vibrant acidity, integrated spice notes and smooth tannins.

Kacaba Cabernet Syrah 2015 ($30, June 17 release, 89 points) — The blend is 66% Cabernet Franc and 34% Syrah with a smoky/meaty nose of wild berries, dark plums, earth and oak barrel spices. It shows fine structure on the palate with a firm bed of tannins, dark and red fruits in tandem, savoury spices and black licorice with a smoky kick on the finish.

Kacaba Reserve Cabernet Franc 2015 ($45, winery, 91 points) — A full-on Cab Franc with bold aromas of spiced cherry, cassis, black currants, earth and well-integrated herbaceous notes. More red fruits on the palate that soak up the fine barrel spices with touches of bramble, licorice and toasted vanilla. This is a well-structured CF and fine tannins that can cellar well for 5+ years.