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Some real gems available at the big Ontario wine release Saturday at Vintages stores


Ontario wines

By Rick VanSickle

What a nice release of Ontario wines at Vintages stores tomorrow, with local wines taking centre-stage across a wide selection of varietals.

Riesling leads the charge with a new wine from Stratus Vineyards making its debut. Also hitting LCBO shelves is Hidden Bench’s Riesling blend of all three estate vineyards and Vineland Estate’s Elevation Riesling, which made the Wines In Niagara’s Top 10 White Wines of 2017.

You’ll also find some very fine Pinots, sparkling and Chardonnays in the release.

Here’s what we can recommend :

Ontario wine

Stratus Evergreen Riesling 2016 ($20, 89 points) — Stratus Vineyards gets it right with this lovely low alcohol (10% abv) Riesling. The nose shows lime zest, grapefruit, lemon and summer peach. There’s only a hint of sweetness on the palate and it’s balanced nicely by racy acidity. It’s delivered to the palate in a crisp, clean and refreshing style with plenty of zesty citrus fruits and peach/pear/quince notes.

Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2016 ($20, 93 points) — St. Urban is one of the most important Riesling vineyards in Ontario. It has history, a proven track record, distinct terroir from block to block and produces top-notch Riesling each and every year at various levels. Elevation is one tier down from the Reserve, but, for me, this defines the wines from Vineland Estate and the winemaker, Brian Schmidt. It’s such a beautiful vineyard both aesthetically and for its rich vein of limestone that forms the foundation of the wine’s personality no matter the vintage. The nose shows bright, vibrant lime zest and citrus, apple skin, summer peach and stony minerality. Just wow on the palate, an initial blast of lemon-lime then honey crisp apple and peach, then waves of wet stone that is all perfectly balanced by racy acidity that runs through the core. Delicious now, but worth laying down a few bottles to see how it matures. This made Wines In Niagara’s Top 10 White Wines of 2017.

Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2016 ($25, 89 points) — Such an expressive Riesling on the nose that shows pear, peach, lime, grapefruit and waves of stony minerality. It shows bold pear and peach flavours on the palate with balancing citrus, minerals and decent acidity through the finish. Drink now or cellar 3 years.

Chateau Des Charmes Brut Sparkling 2016 ($26, 90 points) — The fruit was hand picked specifically for sparkling production. It’s mde in the traditional method and was recently disgorged by hand just before release after spending a minimum 18 months on the lees. Lots of energy in the glass with a persistent bubble leading to a nose of lemon, green apple and biscuit. This is such a lovely quintessential Niagara sparkler with poise and balance between the bright, fresh, zesty citrus and apple, toasty/bready notes and firm acidity that keeps it all popping through the finish. Good bubbly for $26? Yes, please!

Flat Rock Cellars Good Kharma Chardonnay 2016 ($17, 89 points) — A ripe and generous Chardonnay with full-on apple, citrus, pear and nicely integrated spice notes. It shows the warmth of the vintage with robust flavours of tropical fruits, apples, pears, cream and citrus accents with light oak spice notes. A pretty nice drop for $17.

Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2016 ($25, 90 points) — This is a gorgeous Pinot Noir from the warm 2016 vintage. It shows rich and ripe red berries, fresh cut tobacco, toasted vanilla bean and lavish spice notes. The red fruits are concentrated and lush on the palate with supporting licorice, anise, savoury notes and baking spices to go with silky tannins and a long(ish) finish.

The Foreign Affair Pinot Noir 2013 ($35, 91 points) — 20% of the Pinot for this wine was dried for the final blend, which then spent 20 months in French oak. It’s not like other Niagara Pinot Noirs and does not pretend to be. It’s a bolder, riper version that gets its complexity from the appassimento method of winemaking that is this winery’s signature. Once you understand that, you can appreciate this lovely bolder style wine with its nose of spicy red fruits, cloves, nutmeg, plums, bramble and cassis fruit. It cuts deep on the palate with complex flavours that run the gamut from dark cherry to juicy cassis and plums all backed up by layers of baking spices, solid structure and ripe tannins.

Other Niagara wines released, but not reviewed:

• 13th Street Premier Cuvee 2012 ($35)
• Chateau Des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 ($24)
• Megalomaniac My Way Chardonnay 2016 ($20)
• Lundy Manor Proprietor’s Blend Red 2013 ($22)
• Wayne Gretzky Whisky Oak Aged Red 2017 ($20)
• Westcott Estate Pinot Noir 2013 ($30)
• Southbrook Triomphe Organic Cabernet Franc Rose 2017 ($20)