By Rick VanSickle
Fielding Estate Winery does what I wish all Niagara wineries would do — they throw an annual wine release party to give consumers a full review of new and unreleased wines before they hit shelves.
There’s something about making your wines a celebration of tasting and buying at least once or even twice a year (spring and fall) that is appealing.
It’s a ticketed event ($25) with seven featured wine stations spread around the winery and retail store with Fielding experts, such as Clark Tyler, Fielding assistant winemaker, Richie Roberts, winemaker, and owner Curtis Fielding, all below, left to right, pouring samples of the latest small-batch and premium releases exclusive to The Wine Lodge. The wines will be paired with culinary creations by Chef Mitchell Lamb to amplify the tasting experience.
Some of Fielding’s most celebrated wines, which are only made in the best vintages, will include the 2018 Lot No. 17 Riesling, 2018 Rock Pile Pinot Gris, 2016 Syrah and the rarely produced Chosen Few proprietary red blend.
This is a fantastic way for consumers to get the jump on Fielding’s most sought-after wines, many of which sell out quickly at the Beamsville Bench winery.
Interactive sessions are available between 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and spots must be booked in advance.
The $25 tickets, refunded with the purchase of 12 bottles or more) include featured wine samples and food pairings. Tickets can be purchased here.
Many of the wines on offer Saturday have come to define the house style at Fielding Estate and the clever branding of the Muskoka chair logo that adorns the bottle of this family-owned winery.
I recently sat down with Fielding winemaker Roberts to get an advance peek at the new releases, many of which are included in the Saturday taste and buy event. Here’s what I liked.
Fielding Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($20, 89 points) — This is the first Sauv Blanc made at the estate in four years. Shows a lovely tropical/grapefruit nose with subtle grass and herbs. Roberts picked the fruit in two phases to bring both freshness and ripeness to the party. It is lively on the palate with citrus and tropical notes to go with lemon peel, wet hay notes and herbs that all lead to a zesty finish.
Fielding Estate Rosé 2018 ($16, Vintages June 8, 88 points) — The success of rosé across Niagara and entire wine world, really, has given rise to many wineries producing more than one style — usually a bolder version and a much prettier, subtler, dry style. This one is a bit bolder than the rosé below, but still in a dry style with a nose of cherries, wild raspberries and light herbaceous notes. It’s super dry but juicy on the palate with crushed red berries and integrated herbs with a zesty finish.
Fielding Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 ($26, 91 points) — This is Roberts’ first attempt at this labour-intensive rosé. All fruit was hand picked and sent straight to press then fermented in older French oak barrels. It’s quite pretty on the nose with a light blush colour. It shows brambly raspberry, cranberries, cherries and a lovely floral note. It’s simply gorgeous on the palate, red fruits for sure, with lovely subtlety to the herbs and a clean fresh finish. Highly crushable!
Fielding Estate Lot 17 Riesling 2018 ($28, 92 points) — Always among the Tier One Rieslings made in Niagara, the Lot 17 comes from 20-year-old vines planted to Clone 49 (Alsace) grapes grown in the estate vineyard. The Lot 17 was not made in 2017. Such a beautifully classic Beamsville Bench nose of lime extract, grapefruit, stony minerality and granny smith apple. There is some RS but it’s loaded with electric acidity to balance it out. Look for a range of lime, grapefruit and minerals for days on a clean, fresh finish. The kind of Riesling that you buy a few bottles of and keep trying them as they age gracefully. Can cellar 10+ years.
Fielding Estate Rock Pile Pinot Gris 2018 ($28, 91 points) — This is another signature wine from Fielding and always one of the top examples of this grape made in Niagara. It comes from the estate-owned Tufford Road Vineyard in the Lincoln-Lakeshore sub-app from 30-year-old vines, believed to be the oldest planting of Pinot Gris in Niagara. It’s picked later than the regular Pinot Gris and 100% barrel fermented in neutral oak puncheons. It then stays on the lees for five months with some skin contact. The lovely aromatics show creamy pear, soft apple, melon and underlying spice and citrus accents. It’s rich and textured on the palate and dripping in creamy pear and mature apple notes with notes of honey and spice. It’s all kept lively on the finish with mouth-watering acidity.
Fielding Estate Wine Club Chardonnay 2017 ($37, Wine Club only, 92 points) — Not available unless you are a wine club member, but worth reviewing because it’s such a lovely wine. Already a nice golden colour, this Chardonney was wild fermented and spent 15 months French oak. The nose shows Bosc pear, smoke, minerals, spice and salinity with apple/citrus accents. It’s elegant and round on the palate with overt orchard fruits, integrated spice notes, limestone minerality and a lingering, yet fresh, finish.
Fielding Estate Malbec 2017 ($30, 90 points) — A first for Fielding, this 100% Malbec spends nine months in French oak with only a light addition of sulphur and no filtering or fining. It jumps on the nose with notes of cherries, currants, cassis, some pepper, light spice and a nice floral accent. There is a slight reductive note on the palate, which I love, with brambly and rustic red fruits, savoury spice notes, pepper, black currants and medium+ tannins on a lively finish. A very different expression of Malbec.
Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2016 ($43, 93 points) — “Unequivocally, my favourite red wine we have at the moment,” says Roberts. The winemaker has always had a soft spot for Niagara Cabernet Franc and he has treated this single-vineyard estate version with kid gloves and made it purposely “not huge” despite the warmth of the vintage. Only 20% new oak was used to age the wine. Look for a nose of fresh red berries, hints of herbs, perfumed spices and complementary spice notes. It’s simply wonderful on the palate, rich and chiselled with everything in harmony. It’s loaded with red berries, bramble, earth, polished tannins, light spice and herbs and a vibrant finish. You can’t ask for more from this variety.
Fielding Estate Lowry Vineyard Syrah ($55, 92 points) — Roberts and Fielding have a long history with the Lowry family in St. David’s and famously get a portion of the Lowry Five Rows Pinot Noir every vintage as well as the Syrah for this bottling. It is the first time Fielding has put the name of the vineyard on the Syrah. “Figured it was time,” Roberts says. This has a gorgeous nose of smoked meat, raspberry pie, underbrush, concentrated black currants, camp fire smoke and toasted oak spices. It is vibrant on the palate with smoky/charcuterie notes to go with crunchy red berries, anise, currants and savoury spices. Such beautiful texture and balanced through the finessed finish.
Fielding Estate Chosen Few 2016 ($80, 93 points) — This is only the third release of this top red made at Fielding, the others were made in the equally hot 2012 and 2007 vintages. The blend is 50% Syrah (Lowry Vineyard, St. David’s), 25% Cabernet Franc (estate Tufford Road) and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon (Serluca Vineyard, Four-Mile Creek). It’s all aged in 50% new French oak for 18 months with another year in bottle at release and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Such a deep red colour in the glass with a meaty nose dark fruits, ripe currants, cassis, toasted oak spices and earth with red berry compote just beginning to show. It’s highly structured with the concentrated fruits engulfed in fine oak tannins and oak spices. It’s meaty, layered and tight on released but beginning to show a lovely concentration of black currants, cassis, dark cherries and smoked meats that are deep and rich. This will take time to come into harmony and can age 10+ years (I wouldn’t even touch it for three years) with huge rewards. A blockbuster of a Niagara red wine for collectors.
Fielding Craft Cider ($18 for a 4-pack, 88 points) — For Roberts’ second iteration of cider (the first one sold out quickly), 10 different varieties of apples are used with Northern spy the biggest contributor at 40%. It’s a tasty cider with crisp apple flavours and a touch of citrus with only a hint of sweetness. This pairs perfectly with any number of the Muskoka chairs that are perched invitingly right outside the main doors of the winery and overlooking the Beamsville Bench to Lake Ontario. Summer in a glass.