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A Mother’s Day tribute to Michèle Bosc, plus our picks for top Niagara wines released at Vintages Saturday

By Rick VanSickle

The Ontario wine industry lost a beautiful soul on Jan. 10, but the legacy of Michèle Bosc will live on in several dedications to the former vice-president of marketing at Niagara’s Château des Charmes.

In a stirring, emotional joyous celebration of life on Mother’s Day at the chateau, invited guests heard the story of Bosc’s incredible life as told by those closest to her. Paul Bosc Jr., husband of Michèle, led family members and friends through a program that touched all aspects of a life well lived.

Note: Also in this report, Niagara wines recommended in Saturday’s Vintages release, including Hidden Bench, Creekside, Henry of Pelham, Southbrook and Lakeview, plus six bargain South African wines at the LCBO

Ontario wine
Michele Bosc

Michèle was an East Coaster who earned a B. Sc. from Dalhousie University. Her career started in the pharmaceutical industry in sales, sales training and marketing. As the marketing guru for the St. David’s winery, she was the brand custodian and responsible for all aspects of the guest experience. This included staff training and development, marketing, public relations and advertising, as well as overseeing the hospitality programs at the winery. She is well known for being an early adopter in utilizing social platforms, especially Twitter, where Bosc excelled at bringing younger, tech savvy consumers into the local wine scene through many clever initiatives she championed. Bosc was the winery representative on various marketing and tourism committees in the industry and, as we learned, a selfless and tireless supporter for so many crucial charities in the Niagara region.

Niagara wine

Bosc’s husband Paul sprinkled his stories with often tearful memories of Michèle’s love of music, an area of their life that was often shared by going to each other’s favourite acts live, which they did a lot, even including their young son Alex at an early age.

Their had shared passion for such bands as Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Green Day and Bush that was only overshadowed by Michèle’s favourite band and the only one she had everything single album, Avenged Sevenfold, an American heavy metal band from California.

But it was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird that Paul chose as his final musical sendoff for Michèle.

Several dedications were made to Michèle throughout the afternoon as the crowd of family, friends, wine industry professionals and staff of the winery listened to an afternoon of stories about Michèle, purposely held on Mother’s Day, her favourite day. They included:

Naming of the back terrace at the winery, where so many happy events take place, to “Michele’s Courtyard”;

Sponsorship of three families per year to Camp Kerry, a non-profit, self-funded association of camps in North America that helps grieving families (both Paul Sr. and son Alex dealt with their grieve at the camp);

A $50,000 donation to Wellspring Niagara and the naming of the Michèle Bosc Energy Therapy Room;

The naming of “Michéle’s Cuvée” on her favourite white wine the Aligoté (now at Vintages) and her favourite red wine the Pinot Noir. $1 of every bottle sold will be donated to Camp Kerry;

And, finally, there will also be a plaque for “fearless girl” Michèle on the property once the details are worked out.

Such a lovely day for a wonderful person and all those who gathered to pay their respects.

Niagara wines at Vintages on Saturday

It’s a fairly robust release of Ontario wines at Vintages stores on Saturday.

We kick off our recommendations with this Hidden Bench oak-touched Fume Blanc that I recently tasted at the winery. It’s only available at flagship Vintages stores in Ontario and it comes highly recommended.

Also released and recommended are two Creekside wines from the Iconoclast family, an organic Riesling from Southbrook plus a pair of personable red wines from Henry of Pelham and Lakeview.

Flagship stores only

Hidden Bench Rosomel Vineyard Fume Blanc 2017 ($30, 93 points) — The estate fruit comes from the famed certified organic Rosomel Vineyard on the Beamsville Bench. The oak regime is 65% French (23% new with the balance neutral) and 35% stainless steel. I have always loved this style of elegantly oaked Savvy from Hidden Bench and this is a particularly brilliant effort with a nose of lemon, grapefruit, hay, subtle oak spice and lovely flinty minerality. It shows beautiful balance on the palate with light oak flavours, flint, fresh lemon and lime, salinity, touch of grass and herbs and gorgeous finesse and freshness on the finish.

Regular Vintages stores

Creekside Iconoclast Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($23, 90 points) — The third iteration of this blend is a mix of 65% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest Semillon. It’s the first time SB has dominated the blend, which is barrel fermented and barrel aged for 10 months in French oak. I love the nose of gooseberry, honeysuckle, white flowers, grapefruit, subtle underlying spice and herbs. It has a soft texture on the palate with gorgeous flavours of pear, grapefruit, gooseberry, guava, beeswax, integrated herbs and spice accents with just enough zest on the finish to keep it lively and vibrant.

Southbrook Heather’s Home Vineyard Organic Riesling 2017 ($23, 91 points) — This is something … an expressive, unique nose of ginger, lime and peach pie with perfumed notes of wet-stone minerality and a subtle note of honey. It’s juicy on the palate and bursting with stone fruit, citrus zest, lime and ginger with a lovely tug of sweet and tart that’s all nicely balanced by the acidity.

Creekside Iconoclast Syrah 2016 ($25, 91 points) — This estate Syrah comes from the Queenston Road Vineyard in St. David’s. Classic Niagara Syrah with a nose of meaty/savoury/earthy notes followed by ripe plums, black currants, cassis and a range of barrel spices and savoury accents. It has evident tannic structure and the stuffing to cellar, but still some immediate pleasure with ripe darks fruits, peppery notes and a range of toasted oak spices through a long finish.

Henry of Pelham Family Tree Red 2016 ($19, 88 points) — The blend is Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Baco Noir with the fruit barrel aged for 17 months in a mix of French and U.S. oak. It has a smoky/spicy nose with notes of cassis, cherry, raspberry, cracked black peppercorns and earthy/loamy accents. The dark and cherry fruits turn savoury on the palate with a lovley range of barrel oak spices all propped up by firm acidity.

Lakeview Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($30, 89 points) — A core of ripe fruit including black currants, black berries, vanilla, oak spice and underlying cherry/raspberry notes. The red and dark fruits on the palate are joined by lovely barrel oak spices, assertive tannins and high-toned acidity to keep it all fresh and lively through the finish.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Creekside Rosé 2018 ($16)
• Southbrook Framboise ($20 for 375 mL)
• Lakeview Cellars Gewurztraminer Icewine ($35 for 200 mL)
• Palatine Hills Vidal Icewine 2012 ($20 for 200 mL)
• Trius Brut Rosé ($33)
• The Foreign Affair Unoaked Chardonnay 2017 ($24)
• Westcott Lillia’s Unoaked Chardonnay 2018 ($22)
• Kew Soldier’s Grant 2016 ($20)

A few bargain (under $15)
South African wines at the LCBO

Nederburg The Winemasters Sauvignon Blanc 2018, South Africa ($14, LCBO, 88 points) — A nose of gooseberries, melon, fresh-sliced grapefruit and underlying herbs and grassy notes. The palate reveals brighter tropical fruits, citrus, melon and more herbs with a zesty lime finish. Good value savvy from South Africa.

Fleur de Cap Essence du Cap Chardonnay 2017, South Africa ($13, LCBO, 87 points) — A fruit-forward nose of apple, citrus, pineapple, tropical fruits and light spice notes. It is ripe and flavourful on the palate with a range of tropical fruits, spice and balancing acidity.

Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc 2018, South Africa ($11, LCBO, 87 points) — Aromas of passion fruit, guava, lime, gooseberries and sweet herbs. This is slightly sweet on the palate with a range of tropical fruits and citrus on the finish to keep it clean and refreshing.

Two Oceans Shiraz 2018, South Africa ($11, LCBO, 87 points) — A lighter-bodied style of Syrah with a nose of red berries, pepper, plums and baking spices. The palate reveals soft tannins and a supple, smooth feel that carries ripe dark fruits, raspberries, bramble, peppery spices and good acidity through the finish.

Fleur de Cap Essence du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, South Africa ($13, LCBO, 88 points) — All sourced from Western Cape fruit, the nose shows cassis, black cherries, sandalwood perfume, wood spices and cocoa. It’s quite smooth on the palate with black currants, spice, anise and dark chocolate notes.

Nederburg The Winemasters Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, South Africa ($14, LCBO, 89 points) — An impressive Cabernet in this price range with a nose of blackberries, wood spice, black cherries and currants. It’s velvety smooth on the palate and loaded with black currants, anise, raspberries and cherries with underlying wood spices and perky acidity to keep it fresh and lively through the finish.