NewsNiagara Wine ReviewsTop Stories

The Canada Wine 150 onslaught continues Saturday at Vintages, plus reviews for Tinhorn Creek, Culmina, Rosehall Run and LG award winners

Canada wine

By Rick VanSickle

Another hefty dose of Canadiana at Vintages this Saturday as the Canada Wine 150 collection continues to flood the shelves this summer.

It really should be called the “Niagara” 150 collection as very few other wines have been curated from places like the Okanagan Valley, Lake Erie North Shore, Prince Edward County or Nova Scotia.

But, fret not, in this report we have rounded out the Canadiana portfolio with three reds from Golden Mile Bench producer Culmina in the Okanagan Valley, some great top-tier juice from another Golden Mile producer, Tinhorn Creek, plus a report on new releases from Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County (that’s Rosehall winemaker Dan Sullivan with Prince Charles in this photo by Chris Wattie above). Also, new wines from Henry of Pelham and the winners from the 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines.

First, here’s what we can recommend from the release Saturday (July 22) at LCBO/Vintages stores.

Note: Reviews are by Rick VanSickle and Michael Lowe. Mike’s reviews are noted with ML at the end of the review.

Ontario wine

Featherstone Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($18, 89 points) — When winemaker David Johnson was in South Africa last year he fell in love with the Chenin Blancs made in that country and wanted to employ some of the barrel techniques they use there with his own Sauvignon Blanc to add weight and complexity. This is the first example of that style with 20% of the fruit barrel fermented and the rest fermented in stainless steel tanks. It has an interesting nose of grapefruit, white pepper, jasmine, white flowers, citrus zest and a pinch of spice. It has great texture on the palate with a range of citrus and floral/herbal notes that are nicely balanced with the spice notes.

Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2015 ($18, 88 points) — Sourced from the estate’s Short Hills Bench from vines 30+ years old. The nose shows juicy lime, citrus rind, grapefruit and tangerine notes. There are sublime mineral notes on the palate to go with tangy citrus, pear, apple and racy acidity to keep the sweetness in balance.

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2015 ($19, 90 points) — Zingy lime, orange blossom, citrus rind and ginger notes on the nose. It’s a polished Riesling with good balance and a playful tug of sweet-tart citrus and tangerine fruit on the palate with hints of ginger and minerals. Very nice Riesling.

Best Ontario wine

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2014 ($25, 90 points) — The Speck Family Reserve version of the estate’s Short Hills Bench planting of Baco is only made when perfect conditions warrant it. The wine spends 18+ months in top American oak barrels. It’s thick and rich in the glass with a dark purple colour and a nose of ripe plums, highly extracted raspberries, bramble, herbs, savory spice and cedar cigar box notes. Concentrated red and dark fruits emerge on the palate and are punctuated by savoury herbs and spices and carried on a high-toned bed of tannins. Baco lovers will love this wine.

Flat Rock Pink Twisted Rosé 2016 ($18, 90 points) — The high percentage of pinot noir shines with plenty of white cherry and a hint of strawberry on the nose. Cherry dominates from the first sip, through mid-palate, and lingers on a medium to long finish. A decidedly versatile food wine, I paired it with fresh jalapeno-laced salsa and rice and bean burritos but it will match equally well with a simple roast chicken and ratatouille with fresh herbs. There’s just enough sweetness to balance slightly acidic foods and can stand up to a bit of spicy heat. (ML)

Other Canadian wines released, but not reviewed:

• Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2015 ($19)
• Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2013 ($35)
• Fielding Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 ($15)
• Norman Hardie Riesling 2016, Prince Edward County ($21)
• Kew Barrel Aged Gamay Noir 2014 ($25)
• North 43 Cabernet Franc 2013 ($13)
• Oak Bay Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan ($20)
• Westcott Delphine Rose 2016 ($17)

Flagship Vintages stores only

Pearl Morissette Cuvee Dix-Neuvieme Chardonnay 2014 ($38, tasted when it was still in foudre, so did not score it) — While not the final blend, you get a glimpse of the future. The shows attractive apple, citrus, and mineral notes with a reductive/brioche note. It’s striking in the mouth with rich and layered orchard fruits, integrated spice and perky acidity.

Prince Charles and Rosehall Run
a winning combination

Prince Edward County wine

Prince Edward County stole the spotlight in June with a wine-soaked visit from Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The royal couple visited PEC for the first time on June 30 as part of Canada’s 150th celebrations  and the photos of the two royals sipping local County wines and chatting with winemakers were priceless, none more than this shot of Rosehall Run winemaker Dan Sullivan meeting and pouring a wee drop for an enthusiastic Prince Charles (photo at the top of the page).

I recently tasted through some new releases from Rosehall. Here’s what I can royally recommend:

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Pinot Gris 2016 ($25, 89 points) — This Gris comes from the estate’s Hungry Point West Vineyard, planted in 2013. The nose shows fuzzy peach, melon, apple and a mineral note that cuts through the heart of this County Gris. It’s juicy yet wonderfully dry with a note of salinity to go with citrus, mandarin orange, apple, subtle spice and minerals galore. Succulent, yet perfectly dry and austere.

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25, 90 points) — Two thirds of the juice was fermented in stainless steel, resting on lees for six months; the rest was barrel fermented in new Acacia wood barrels for the same duration. A much-different expression of savvy with aromas of sweet grass, fresh-cut hay, grapefruit, citrus, passion fruit and spice. It’s juicy and round on the palate with ripe pear, citrus and spice notes. More elegant than fresh. A nice job here of site specific Sauvignon Blanc.

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 ($20, 90 points) — Pure, unadulterated County Chardonnay with a fresh nose of apple, pear and some tropical fruit notes. Such purity on the palate with clean, fresh flavours that combine crisp apple, pear and minerals though a vibrant finish.

Rosehall Run Just One Rosé 2016 ($18, 88 points) — A blend of 90% Niagara Gamay and the rest County Pinot Noir. The bright nose shows raspberry, strawberry, watermelon and plum notes. Completely dry on the palate with a refreshing mélange of red berries and plums. A porch-sipper for lovers of dry rosé.

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Pinot Noir 2016 ($25, 89 points) — Seasoned in 20% new French oak with no fining and minimal filtration, the nose shows bright and expressive cran-cherry, brambly raspberry and wild raspberry with a wisp of spice. This is all about the range of red fruits on the palate with spice and mineral accents that all travel on a silky smooth finish.

Rosehall Run Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015 ($25, 88 points) — The 2015 was a tough one for the County due to severe frost at the end of May. Winemaker Dan Sullivan leaned on his Niagara friends on the Twenty Mile Bench for this fruit that spent 14 months in French oak and was bottled unfined and with minimal filtration. The Cabernet Franc makes its presence known on the nose with cassis, herbs and licorice while Merlot brings cherries and earth. It’s smooth and flavourful on the palate with cherry, plum, cassis, lovely clove, herbs and licorice notes with soft tannic structure.

Culmina red wine report

B.C. wine

By all accounts, the 2014 vintage in the Okanagan Valley, and in particular the Golden Mile Bench, enjoyed perfect growing conditions for the big reds. A slightly warmer spring and warm conditions in July allowed for an earlier than usual veraison by a few days. That was followed by cooler August temperatures and ideal ripening conditions in September and October, which allowed the fruit to mature perfectly to full phenolic and flavour ripeness in the Bordeaux reds.

The big three — Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon — fared beautifully in Culmina’s vineyards and shows in the quality of wines. Here’s what we can recommend.

Culmina Merlot 2014 ($35, 91 points) — The fruit was sourced from the estate’s Arise Bench on the Golden Mile Bench and was finished unfiltered and unfined with 100% French oak (15% new) aged for 16 months. Such a gorgeous nose of plums, cherries, blackberries, anise, sweet/savoury spices and toasted oak notes. It’s bright with a cavalcade of flavours on the entry to the palate. Look for ripe, dark and red berries, toasted vanilla spice and elegantly appointed spice notes on a supple, smooth delivery though the finish. Can cellar and develop 7+ years, but nicely integrated right now.

Culmina Cabernet Franc 2014 ($38, 92 points) — Similar winemaking as above, also unfiltered/unfined with a rocking nose of savoury red fruits, herbs, cedar cigar box, rich spices, black pepper, licorice and toasted vanilla. It has lovely mouth-feel with a rich broth of red fruits, savoury herbs, pepper, elegant oak spices and plush tannins with a perky and lifted finish on the palate. Such a wonderful Cab Franc.

Culmina Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($39, 93 points) — This big, rich red is packed with ripe blackberry and plum with notes of smoke, tobacco, spicy cedar and vanilla. A complex wine that is lush and beautifully textured with good length on the palate. If you can’t wait another 5-8 years of cellar time, decant it for a couple of hours and let it envelop the senses. (ML)

Trio of Oldfield Reserve wines
from Tinhorn Creek

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve 2Bench White 2016 ($20, 90 points) — The blend for this Okanagan white is 47% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Semillon,
16% Viognier, 14% Chardonnay and 6% Muscat with some wild yeast and oak barrel fermentation. The nose is fresh and lively with a range of tropical fruits, lime, peach, lemon, subtle herbs and spice. It’s juicy and ripe on the palate with flavours of peach cobbler, tropical notes, citrus accents, underlying herbs and all delivered with mouth-watering acidity on the finish.

Okanagan wine

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Syrah 2014 ($32, 91 points) — This superb Syrah (and tiny bit of Viognier) is aged in a selection of French, Hungarian and American oak, about 30% of it new oak. The wines are kept on the lees and topped regularly over 18 months before being bottled. The wine is then aged in bottle for a year. It has a lovely, expressive nose of plums, boysenberry, figs, earth, bramble, peppercorns and an array of savoury and sweet oak spice notes. It’s vibrant and meaty on the palate with ripe plum, black fruits, dried herbs, savoury/peppery spices, licorice, smooth tannins and enough structure to improve in bottle for a few years to come. Interesting and complex Syrah.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Merlot 2014 ($27, 90 points) — Tinhorn adds 15% Cabernet Franc to this Merlot and ages the varietals separately in French oak barrels for 18 months, before being racked to tank, blended and finally bottled. Aromas of jammy red fruits, cassis, baking spices, cloves, cocoa and earthy notes jump from the glass. There’s a range of lovely savoury/earthy notes on entry to the palate, then red currants, strawberry pie, ripe cherries, dark chocolate and elegant toasted oak spices that carry through a supple, smooth delivery on the finish. Drinking great right now, but can improve in bottle for 5+ years.

New releases from Henry of Pelham

Niagara wine

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Estate Blanc de Blanc 2012 Carte Blanche ($45, 92 points) — Made in the traditional method from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown at the estate’s Short Hills Bench vineyard. Secondary fermentation in bottle is followed by a further 60 months of aging on the lees. Always one of the top sparklers made in Niagara. It shows a rich golden colour in the glass with a nose of brioche, lemon curd, fresh baked bread, baked apple, toast and mineral. It has an energetic mousse and a vibrant entry on the palate with lovely toasty but fresh flavours of apple, citrus, pear, lemon and vanilla toast that is all together an elegant, rich, deep and layered sparkling wine. A beautiful thing.

Henry of Pelham Estate Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($20, winery only, 89 points) — The nose of this oak-treated SB shows smoky grapefruit, herbs, wet hay, lime, guava and passion fruit. It has a spicy bite on the palate with ripe tropical fruits, round texture and citrus notes on the finish.

Henry of Pelham Old Vines Baco Noir 2016 ($20, 90 points) — From vines 30+ years old planted by the Speck brothers on the Short Hills Bench. The nose is rich and savoury with black currants, jammy raspberry, herbs and spice. The currants are concentrated and thick on the palate with a range of herbs to go with soft tannins and smooth delivery through the finish.

Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2016 ($15, 88 points) — HOP is known for its Baco and this one reminds us why. The palate shows lots of plum and blackberry with hints of anise and wood while mouth-watering acidity works in contrast to the ripeness of the fruit. The result is an easy-to-drink wine that will pair as easily with burgers topped with cheddar as it will with roasted venison. (ML)

Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2016 ($17, 88 points) — From the “Classic Tier” at HoP, this Pinot offers bang for your buck. It has medium weight and shows savoury red fruits, cherries, earth and spice on the nose. A range of bright fruit flavours — from cherry, raspberry and cassis — is more expressive on the palate with added notes of clove, earth and licorice.

House Wine Co. Vidal Moscato 2016 ($13, 87 points) — Henry of Pelham’s value-priced House Wines are build for backyard parties, summer fare and anything that’s not too complicated. This quirky blend has a pronounced nose of peach, lemon-lime, grapefruit and honey. It’s off-dry and teems with ripe peach and citrus flavours.

House Wine Co. Cabernet Shiraz 2016 ($14, 86 points) — A juicy, easy drinking wine showing black currant, black cherry and some peppery spice. It’s a simple, good value quaffer that will pair nicely with burgers or wood-oven pizza or barbecued ribs. (ML)

House Wine Co. Riesling- Pinot Grigio 2016 ($14, 87 points) — Jam-packed with sweet pear, apple and zesty lime, the wine is perfect for sipping on the patio. There’s a nice acid backbone to balance the fruit-forward style along with clean minerality on the finish. (ML)

Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s
Wine Awards 2017

Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell presided over the presentation of awards for the 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite. This year marked the seventh annual awards ceremony.

2017 Winners List (note, reviews were submitted and not reviewed by Wines In Niagara):

Magnotta NV Blanc de Blancs
A fine Chardonnay sparkler made in the traditional method. A complex wine with persistent tiny bubbles with a toasty, leesy nose; medium-bodied, dry, green apple and hazelnut flavours with a long, minerally, nutty finish.

Creekside 2015 Iconoclast Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
Pale straw colour with a spicy nose of grapefruit, green pear and lanolin; medium-bodied with a creamy texture, crisply dry, fresh and clean with an engaging tartness and good intensity of flavour.

Trius 2015 Showcase Clean Slate
Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment

A beautifully balanced wine with a bouquet of cut grass, orange blossom with a thread of minerality. Medium-bodied, dry, round on the palate with flavours of gooseberries and passionfruit.

Flat Rock 2014 Rusty Shed Chardonnay
Golden straw colour with a green tint, this Chardonnay offers an expressive nose of red apple and melon with a floral note and toasty oak; full and rich on the palate, it sustains well thanks to its vibrant acidity.

Henry of Pelham 2016 Riesling Estate
A fine example of an off-dry Riesling. Pale straw colour with a nose of honeyed grapefruit and lime; light to medium-bodied, with guava and citrus fruit flavours that linger long on the palate.

Trius Showcase Riesling
Ghost Creek Vineyard 2015

Pale lemon colour with orchard fruit aromas of peach and apple with a floral grace note; good tension between sweet fruit and citrus acidity with a long, mouth-freshening finish.

Château des Charmes 2015 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’ St. David’s Bench Vineyard
Medium ruby colour with a herbal, earthy, cherry nose and just a hint of oak; medium-bodied with meatiness in mid-palate and a dry and savoury plum flavour. Classic Ontario Gamay.

Nomad at Hinterbrook Cabernet Franc 2013
Deep ruby in colour with a flattering nose of bell pepper, coffee beans and currants; medium-bodied, dry, plum and cherry flavours with balancing acidity and a long finish.

Kew Vineyards 2012 Heritage
Bordeaux varieties subjected to appassimento treatment before fermentation. Ruby colour with a bouquet of dried berries with notes of leather, rose petals and moist earth. Medium to full-bodied with blackcurrant and coffee flavours that finish with a tannic lift on the finish.

Trius 2014 Showcase Vidal Icewine
Deep golden-amber colour; botrytis and floral notes on the nose redolent with mango, honey and peach aromas; full-bodied, sweet and unctuous on the palate with dried fig, tropical fruit and honey flavours kept in check by balancing acidity.

Inniskillin Niagara Estate 2014
Sparkling Vidal Icewine

Deep golden colour with a nose of caramel and apricot jam; medium weight, honeyed peach flavour with an active mousse whose bubbles ameliorate the wine’s sweetness and give length to the finish.