Niagara Wine ReviewsTop Stories

What a time to be alive! Some gorgeous Niagara wine gems hit shelves at Vintages Saturday and beyond

Niagara wines

By Rick VanSickle

Some very interesting Niagara wines are becoming available to consumers from a couple of sources Saturday, this month and next.

First we run down the Niagara wine releases at Vintages Saturday that includes a remarkable sparkling wine from 2027 Cellars, the top Chardonnay at Flat Rock Cellars, and a couple of other wines we can highly recommend.

The Vintages Classic Collection in September and October includes top offerings from the Bachelder Niagara Collection, a Pearl Morissette Pinot Noir and a 2011 Pinot from the top tier at 13th Street.

Plus we have a trio of new wines from Henry of Pelham that we can recommend.

Niagara wines at Vintages Saturday

Ontario wines

2027 Cellars Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Queenston Road Vineyard 2013 ($30, 92 points) — Sparse use of added sugar here with a 4.5 g/l dosage in this 100% single-vineyard Chardonnay bubbly. A vigorous bubble in the glass with a nose of flinty minerality, baked bread, citrus and green apple. It’s energetic and fresh on the palate with tangy lemon-citrus notes, apple and flint notes that is juicy yet austere at this early stage (originally reviewed in March, 2016).

Top Niagara wines

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2014 ($27, 92 points) — The Rusty Shed from Flat Rock is the best expression of terroir-driven Chardonnay possible from the estate. It’s culled from the top parcels of Chardonnay from the best barrels during an extensive blending session by the winemaking crew. It is wild fermented, or as Flat Rock likes to call it “spontaneous fermentation with ambient yeasts” with minimal new oak in the aging process. This is a beautiful expression of Twenty Mile Bench Chardonnay with a lovely nose of poached pear, creamy vanilla, apple and integrated spice notes that cruise along a vein of flinty minerality. It’s quite elegant on the palate with the orchard fruits emerging front and centre with complementing vanilla toast, cream and soft barrel spices all nicely balanced with freshening acidity. A fine example of cool-climate and finessed Chardonnay.

Best Ontario winesThirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Double Noir 2015 ($19, 89 points) — Winemaker Emma Garner blends Gamay Noir (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) and employs French oak aging for this wonderful red that shows fresh raspberry, wild berries, undergrowth and subtle woodsy spice and tannins. A tasty lighter-style red for summer drinking.

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé 2016 ($18, 87 points) — A blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Gamay, look for myriad aromas of strawberries, watermelon and grapefruit with a squirt of apple and lemon. It’s relatively dry on the palate with ripe red fruits and good acidity. Nice summer quaffer.

Other Ontario wines being released Saturday, but not released:

• Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2015 ($30)
• 13th Street Red Palette 2016 ($16)
• Leaning Post Pinot Noir 2013 ($30)
• Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2015 ($28)
• Featherstone Four Feathers 2016 ($15)
• G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay 2016 ($18)
• Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2010 ($17)
• Vintage Ink Whisky Barrel Aged Dark Red 2014 ($18)
• Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2016 ($20)
• Trius Brut Rose NV ($30)
• Stratus Red Icewine 2016 ($40 for 200 mL)
• Closson Chase K.J. Watson Vineyard Pinot Gris 2016 ($23)
• Colchester Ridge Flagship Chardonnay 2016 ($20)
• Creekside Marianne Hill Riesling 2015 ($21)

Classics Collection September

Pearl Morissette Pinot Noir 2014 ($40, this wine was tasted before bottling and not scored) — The 2014 shows heavy scented lavender, cherry, cassis and light toasted spice. It’s built in a more masculine style with meaty cherry and blueberry fruit with an earthy finish.

Also from Classics September Niagara wines:

• Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2012 ($45)

Classics Collection October

Bachelder Wismer-Parke Vineyard Old Vines Pinot Noir 2014 ($45, 93 points) — A sublime take on Pinot, with complex aromas of cran-cherry, violets, meaty/earthy notes and swirling minerality with oak barrel spice accents. The red berries and dark fruit notes are rich and layered on the palate with plush tannins and minerals that combine with fine, elegant spices. Such a beauty.

13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2011 ($45, 92 points) — In the Essence wines, this is where you find the personality of Colas, this is his playground, a place where he can make the wines that best express the best of the vintage, his take on the vintage. The Pinot shows black cherry, meaty-loamy notes, truffles and swirling spices on the nose. It is built with structure, designed to age, with ripe, assertive tannins, savoury cherry flavours, currants, earthy and spicy but doesn’t seem over the top on the palate. My temptation would be to lay this down for a while to bring it all into harmony.

Bachelder Niagara Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 ($45, 93 points) — The Wismer Vineyard bottling is a staple in the Bachelder Niagara portfolio and maintains a similar style vintage to vintage with only minor tweaks in the winery to maintain a consistent style. It’s rife with river-rock minerality, apple skin, pear, quince and a touch more oak spice on the nice. It is so fine on the palate, no hint of the hot vintage of 2012, with lovely integration, length, fine oak spice, orchard fruits and maintaining a certain freshness through a long finish.

Also from Classics October wines:

• Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($420

To order from Classics Collection, go here.

A trio of new wines from Henry of Pelham

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($30, 92 points) — Intense nose on this top tier Chardonnay from the Short Hills Bench. Look for spiced apples, mineral notes, creamy pear and just a touch of citrus on the edges. Gorgeous mouth-feel with freshening acidity highlights a range of orchard fruits, toasted barrel spice and swirling minerality. It’s balanced and poised now but can cellar 3+ years.

Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Speck Family Reserve 2016 ($25, 91 points) — A nice warm vintage brings out the best in Baco with a concentrated nose of plums, blackberries, bacon fat, herbs and smoky/spicy notes. The fruit turns to cherries and raspberry on the palate with a supporting role from plums, blackberries tasted oak spice, savoury herbs and good acidity through the finish.

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2016 ($15, 87 points) — Even at this entry level you get a sense of the ripe fruit the hot 2016 vintage brought to the table. Notes of blackberry, plums and smoky spices on the nose. The palate reveals dark fruits, a touch of cherry, decent tannins and spice. Good value Niagara red.

Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2016 ($50 for 375 mL, 92 points) — A rich and expressive nose of honeyed citrus, ripe tropical fruits, baked apple and subtle minerality. It is thick and unctuous on the palate with an electric range of citrus, apple crisp, apricot and honeycomb all driven by a racy core of acidity. Cellar 10+ years.