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Ontario Wine Wire: Rosehall Run’s Small Lots series, thrilling 2027 Chard at Vintages, new J-T winemaker, Ridgepoint Pinot

By Rick VanSickle

Rosehall Run winemaker/owner Dan Sullivan is a pioneer of the Prince Edward County who places the terroir of the region above all else.

But there is no doubt he likes to play outside his own sandbox.

Note, also in this report: 2027 Cellars Chard tops Vintages release, new winemaker at Jackson-Triggs, Ridgepoint Pinot reviewed

His “Small Lots” collection from select single vineyards in both Niagara and PEC is evidence of that. He complements County Cabernet Franc and Merlot varietal wines from his own estate vineyard with Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot from top single vineyards on the Twenty Mile Bench for a four-bottle repertoire of reds from the warm 2016 vintage in Ontario.

Prince Edward County wine

It’s a fascinating exercise to taste them together and pick out the differences between the PEC reds vs. Niagara reds beyond just the grapes used. It’s not always easy to ripen Cabernet Franc and Merlot in The County, and often the wines in cooler vintages from those varieties are leaner, more herbal, more classically cool-climate than in a vintage such as 2016.

I previously tasted the 2016 Silver Fox Block Nedelko Vineyard Pinot Noir from Niagara with Sullivan in PEC last summer beside his 2016 Rosehall Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016. The Niagara version had more dark fruits, wonderful texture and underlying minerality. The County version was prettier (not easy to do in a warm vintage) with profound minerality and gorgeous natural finesse. Both maintain the vibrancy of cool-climate wine growing region.

I love that Sullivan embraces such a diverse portfolio of wines that is ever changing and always dependent on the growing season. If it’s warm, he jumps on sourcing fruit from vineyards he adores whether they are in Niagara or PEC. If it’s cool, he seeks out grapes that show best under those conditions, especially his own estate Pinots, Chardonnays, Rieslings, his growing sparkling portfolio and trusted growers in the region.

The Small Lots Collection

Ontario wine

Rosehall Run Small Lots Pinot Noir 2016, Silver Fox Block (Nedelko Vineyard), Twenty Mile Bench ($35, 90 points) — The 19-month elevage was primarily in second and third fill French oak as only two of the 11 ultimately chosen for the cuvée were new wood. Throughout the barrel maturation there were minimal sulphites added until bottling, allowing the wine to evolve unimpeded.

I retasted this wine eight months after first tasting it on the back porch at Sullivan’s winery in PEC. It is coming along nicely, with such a beguiling nose of perfumed black cherries, cassis, currants, rich spice notes and minerals. It’s a bit bigger, richer and earthier than the County Pinot with a lovely smooth texture and aging potential that highlights darker fruits followed by black cherries, brambly raspberries, toasty oak spices and a sublime vein of minerality through a finessed and vibrant finish. Age 5+ years.

Niagara wine

Rosehall Run Small Lots Petit Verdot Edgerock Vineyard 2016, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara ($35, 91 points) — Edgerock Vineyard hails from a rare south-facing slope on the Niagara benchlands. Elevage for 18 months in two thirds French and one third American oak has rendered a scant 140 cases of this wine. It has an earthy/smoky entry on the nose with a range of spice and herbs, red berries, a floral component and elegant oak spices. The palate reveals a local floral/herbal profile, currants and cassis with wood spices, ripe tannins and lively acidity through the finish. Best to age this 3+ years.

Rosehall Run Small Lots Cabernet Franc 2016, Prince Edward County ($35, 92 points) — Grapes were sourced from the Hillier-based Grange of Prince Edward Northfield Vineyard in Prince Edward County. Sullivan has worked with Franc from four different sites in PEC over the last decade and a half. “In every site it is the ‘anti-Pinot,’ ripening when Pinot Noir threatens to burn up or melt on the vine and resisting arrest when early season vines surrender,” he says. “It doesn’t demand respect in the vineyard but rewards it.”

The fruit was hand picked and destemmed only, the Cabernet Franc was fermented warm (not hot) for 24 days and barrelled quickly into French oak. Most of the newer wood was used in the estate’s Certain Ratio cuvée and the balance was reserved for this wine giving the botanical aspect of the wine space to grow.

Such a gorgeous wine, and the ripest Franc I’ve even nosed from PEC. Classic raspberry bramble aromas with dark cherries, cassis, integrated spice and herbal accents. It’s tightly structured on the palate with red fruits, herbs, minerals and spice that all come together nicely though the finish. Another red that can cellar 5+ years.

Rosehall Run Small Lots Merlot 2016, Prince Edward County ($35, 93 points) — The 2016 vintage came on the heels of the great frost that wreaked disaster on PEC vineyards in 2015.

Sullivan secured a couple of tonnes of the Merlot planted at Huff Estates’s historic South Bay Vineyard in the early 2000s and set about making his first County Merlot — and it’s a beauty!

After a cuvaison of 24 days, the wine was settled for a couple days and quickly barreled down with fine lees in the winery’s underground cellar for 18 months. 60% new French oak was used on this. Subsequent to bottling, Sullivan held the wine for another nine months in the cellar until release.

It has a pretty nose of dark cherries, cocoa, blueberry pie, sweet tobacco and a range of elegant oak spice. So lovely on the palate with good tannic structure that supports a full complement of black cherries, raspberry bramble, wild blueberries, dark chocolate and spice notes all leading to a poised and finessed finish. Best Merlot tasted from The County.

A tasty Pinot from
Niagara’s Ridgepoint Wines

Ridgepoint Wines Pinot Noir 2012 ($25, 90 points) — It’s such a treat for consumers when wines are held back for release with some bottle age, such as this lovely Pinot Noir from the spectacular 2012 vintage in Ontario. It has a gorgeous nose of dark cherries, cranberries, cassis, cedar and attractive barrel oak spice notes. It’s nicely balanced on the palate with a smooth entry that highlights a bevy of savoury red fruits, bramble, some dark fruit accents and spice all delivered on a long, long finish. Drinking perfectly right now but can cellar 3+ years.

Niagara recommendations for
Vintages March 30 release

2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard-Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2017 ($23, 94 points) — This sensational Chardonnay was named Niagara’s Most Thrilling White Wine of 2018 by Wines In Niagara. When winemaker Kevin Panakapka hits it, he hits it out of the park. This is one of those wines from his favourite vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench (he’s not alone). Let’s get the technical notes out of the way. All 2027 Cellar Chards are 100% whole cluster pressed, wild fermented with 100% French oak aging (30%, new oak). The nose is mind-blowing; the first impression is like walking in a mountain stream, the vivid river rock aromas combining with gunflint, pear, fresh-picked bin apple, fine elegant spices and lemon/citrus accents. You could bury your nose in this Chard for days, but it gets better. It’s fresh and lively on the palate, a lean and edgy cool-climate Chard that combines layers of pear and apple with elegant spice and all that flinty goodness that is kept fresh by racy acidity. A sensational Chardonnay that clocks in at $23, for goodness sake. $23??? Crazy.

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.

Reif Estate Vinea ($30, 89 points) — Latin for vine, Vinea is a small batch grape-based liqueur made by Reif finished at 20% abv. The Cabernet Sauvignon is fortified with brandy and then blended with “secret” ingredients to create a one-of-a-kind spirit of the vine. It can be enjoyed on the rocks or as a cocktail (recipe below). The flavours are all about the raspberry/kirsch compote notes with a sweet edge on the finish.

Vinea Royale

Ingredients: 5 ounces of Reif Estate Sparking Chardonnay, 1 ounce Vinea
Preparation: Pour sparkling wine into flute and top with Vinea liqueur
Serve: Straight up; without ice
Standard garnish: Strawberry

Also released Saturday, but not reviewed:

• Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2016 ($20)
• Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut 2015 ($30)
• 13th Street White Palette 2017 ($16)
• Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2017 ($25)
• Vieni Gamay Noir 2017 ($18)
• Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018 ($20)

Levi de Loryn takes on winemaker
duties at Jackson-Trigss

Levi de Loryn, above left with Marco Piccoli at Cuveé Saturday, will be taking over winemaking responsibilities at Jackson-Triggs, Niagara Estate Winery, Arterra Canada announced last week.

Marco Piccoli will now assume the role of senior winemaker in Ontario and will continue as winemaker on Arterra VQA fine wines.

Levi got his start in winemaking at Château Yaldara in the Barossa Valley. Yaldara is the Aboriginal word for sparkling, which coincidentally is his true passion. In his eyes they are “complex and challenging, but done right can be magnificent, and so rewarding.” Since then he has worked in the cellar, the lab and the vineyard at numerous wineries from Australia’s Barossa Valley to California’s Sonoma Valley.

After completing his Masters of Oenology at Adelaide University, he worked at Wither Hills Winery in Marlborough. Since moving to Canada in 2011 he’s worked at Flat Rock Cellars, Angels Gate Winery and others, before joining Arterra Wines Canada in 2018.

“With Levi’s international winemaking experience and his specialty and passion for producing sparkling wines, I’m thrilled to pass the torch and have him lead the winemaking team here at Jackson-Triggs,” said Piccoli.

Note: The above announcement was provided to Wines In Niagara by Arterra Canada