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Three regions, three wineries in review, plus Niagara Vintages picks

By Rick VanSickle

Lots to unpack today in this post that covers three Canadian wineries from three regions and our picks for Niagara wines coming to Vintages Saturday.

Note: We have reviews for Sandbanks in Prince Edward County, Niagara’s Kacaba Vineyards Winery and Vintages picks including 2027 Cellars, Redstone and Creekside.

First up, summer wines from Lakeside Cellars.

Lakeside Cellars
(Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley)

Canadian wine

Lakeside opened its doors only in 2019 and was planning on opening its new hospitality building this year. And, well, you know the rest of the story. COVID-19 laid waste those plans.

Owner/winemaker Ricky Dhaliwal had to shift gears quickly. “The pandemic put the opening of our new hospitality building on hold, but in doing so, allowed us to share a more genuine experience with visitors this year through our cellar door,” he said. “Offering seated crush pad tastings at our cellar door gives visitors a front-row seat to our daily cellar work. Work that, just a few years ago, I was learning myself with the help of our consulting winemaker, Jason Parkes, and now take great pride in sharing with guests.”

Wines In Niagara tasted a selection of Lakeside summer wines from what ended up being a cooler than normal vintage in 2019 in B.C. — perfect for those lively, fresh white wines and rosés. Here is what we can recommend:

Lakeside Cellars Rosé 2019 ($23, 90 points) — This blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon shows an attractive pale salmon colour in the glass with a nose of brambly raspberries, sweet herbs, strawberries and rhubarb. It’s refreshingly dry on the palate with juicy, fresh-cut red berries, herbs, orange zest and vibrancy through the finish. Tasty rosé.

Lakeside Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($25, 89 points) — The fruit for this savvy is sourced from 22-year-old vines from the estate’s Lakeshore Vineyard on the east bench of Osoyoos. It has a gorgeous nose of grapefruit, lime, summer herbs, orange blossom, lemon zest and nectarine. It’s perfectly dry and crisp on the palate with fresh lemon, lime, subtle herbs, kiwi fruit and peach fuzz on a zesty, vibrant finish.

Lakeside Cellars Portage White 2019 ($22, 88 points) — The blend is Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with an attractive nose of peach, lime, nectarine and crisp apple notes. This every day sipper is a refreshing treat on the palate with notes of citrus, peach, green apple and juicy nectarine on a dry finish.

Lakeside Cellars Pinot Gris 2019 ($21, 89 points) — Loving these dry whites from Lakeside! The nose is loaded with summery orchard fruits with a touch of apricot. The palate shows peaches, apricot, nectarine, pear, melon and just a pinch of zesty lime on a refreshingly dry finish.

Sandbanks Estates winery
(Prince Edward County)

Sandbanks Estates winery was founded in 2001 by Catherine Langlois, below, and was one of the first wineries established in Prince Edward County. Langlois began by planting Baco Noir, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Vidal Blanc, Geisenheim and Marechal Foch in 2001 and the portfolio has grown to over 16 brands now available at the LCBO to over 30 brands in total. It was that deep penetration at the LCBO that attracted Arterra Canada to purchase the winery in February.

“I have worked my entire career in the Ontario wine industry and have always admired Arterra Wines Canada for being a pioneer in Canadian wine,” said at the time of the sale. “Since first planting almost 20 years ago, we have grown beyond my wildest expectations. Joining Arterra allows us to continue as a leading Prince Edward County winery, but with greater resources and expertise to support our people, grow our business and get our wines to more Canadians.”

Catherine Langlois, Founder of Sandbanks Winery.

Langlois’s first harvest was in 2003 where she produced 150 cases of Baco Noir, which she sold exclusively to local restaurants and bars. In 2004, she opened a wine boutique in the basement of her home that she built on the property, following the first harvest party in 2005. Sandbanks, to this day, still hosts an annual harvest party each day of the harvest. In 2007, PEC became a VQA designated area and in that following year, Sandbanks got its first listings in the LCBO. Between the years of 2010-2017, Sandbanks Winery built and expanded its wine boutique, tasting room and added a private barrel room and tasting bar.

Wines In Niagara tasted a cross-section of wines from Sandbanks recently. Here is what we liked. Note: All these wines are VQA Ontario and sourced from a variety of different vineyards in the province. Sandbanks wines that do not fall under the ‘Reserve’ tier are non-vintage VQA.

Sandbanks Summer Rosé NV ($15, LCBO, 87 points) — A fun rosé that’s packed with tropical fruits, lychee, grapefruit and ginger notes. It’s slightly effervescent on the palate and made in an off-dry style with lychee, ginger, grapefruit, pear and medium+ acidity.

Sandbanks Rosé 2019 ($14, $2 off Sept. 14-Oct. 11, LCBO, 88 points) — A nose of ripe raspberries, citrus/grapefruit, strawberries and black cherries. There is a kiss of sweetness on the palate to go with a pleasant range of red berries, citrus zest and vibrant acidity on the finish. Good value rosé.

Sandbanks Route 33 White NV ($15, LCBO, 87 points) — This is a blend of Riesling and Pinot Grigio with a nose of peach, lemon blossom, grapefruit and melon. It’s on the drier side on the palate with ripe orchard fruits, citrus, honeydew melon and a fresh vibrant finish.

Sandbanks Pinot Grigio NV ($16, $2 off until Aug. 16, LCBO, 88 points) — The slight copper tinge in the glass suggests some skin contact with a nose of summer peach, ripe pear, apricot and melon. It’s off-dry with bold flavours of pear, apricot, melon and ginger with balancing acidity on the finish.

Sandbanks Sleeping Giant 2018 ($20, $2 off until Sept. 13, LCBO, 88 points) — This is a Marechal Foch and Baco Noir blend with an enticing nose of spice, smoke, dark ripe berries, brambly raspberries, mocha and savoury herbs. Like silk on the palate, so smooth, with rich, ripe raspberries, plums, cassis, licorice, toasted vanilla, sweet spices and savoury notes on the lifted finish.

Sandbanks Baco Noir Reserve 2019 ($20, $2 off from Oct. 12 to Nov. 8, LCBO, 88 points) — Shows a deep purple colour in the glass and a bold nose of red berries, plums, anise, licorice, smoke and spice. It shows a range of kirsch, jammy raspberries, anise, savoury spices, toasted vanilla and mouth-watering acidity on the palate to keep it fresh on the palate. There is some tannic structure in the mouth and a hint of sweetness.

Kacaba Vineyard and Winery

Kacaba Effervescence Sparkling 2019 ($32, winery, 90 points) — This is a blend of 62.5% Pinot Noir and 37.5% Chardonnay and made in the charmat style. It has berry-laden nose of ripe cherries, raspberries, subtle citrus zing, cranberries and herbs. It has a soft and caressing bubble on the palate with sweet red berries that are ripe and juicy with a smidge of lemon zest and herbs. The sweetness would make this a lovely aperitif served with warm Brie cheese or a fresh berry tart.

Kacaba Rebecca Rosé 2019 ($20, winery, 88 points) — This is a Gamay-based rosé made in a refreshingly dry style that shows ripe strawberries, raspberries, cran-cherries and fresh herbs. It’s beautifully dry but illuminates the ripe red berries on the palate with a touch of plums, citrus and herbs on a fresh, vibrant finish.

Kacaba Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($20, winery, 89 points) — Made in a fresh, lean style, this savvy shows notes of grapefruit, gooseberries, kiwi, lime, herbs and pear on the nose. It’s crisp and vibrant on the palate with bright citrus, guava, gooseberries and garden herbs on a zesty finish.

Kacaba Reserve Riesling 2019 ($20, winery, 90 points) — This lovely Riesling has a nose of grapefruit, zesty lime, juicy nectarine, stony minerality and crisp apple notes. It’s juicy on the palate with ripe quince, citrus zest, touch of ginger and honey and mouth-watering acidity. The 24.5 g/l of residual sugar is nicely balanced here.

Coming to Vintages on Saturday

An old favourite is being re-released at Vintages this Saturday at a price that still amazes me. $23 for a Chardonnay this good is an opportunity you do not want to miss. Here are our picks for Niagara wines from the Saturday release.

2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2017 ($23, 94 points) — Wow, just wow. 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 sharp river rock scents 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 lively 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.

Creekside Red Tractor Cabernet Franc 2017 ($25, 89 points) — The fruit was sourced entirely from the Serluca Family farm and celebrates a second-generation family of growers and their vineyards from the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation. The Cab Franc was harvested in late October and the fruit came in ripe, was fermented in stainless steel, gently pressed and aged for 16 months in barrel. It’s quite thick and concentrated in the glass and teaming in savoury red berries, raspberry bramble, cedar plank, mulled herbs and spice. It has good tannic structure, dark cherries, anise, herbs, earth, smoke, savoury notes and spice on a finish lifted by racy acidity.

Redstone Rosé 2019 ($18, 89 points) — The blend is 50% Cab Franc, 25% Merlot and 25% Syrah. This has a pale pink colour in the glass and is a more subtle rosé on the nose with notes of strawberries, rhubarb, cherries, melon and just a hint of citrus. It’s a dry impression on the palate with succulent red berries, some juicy watermelon and a pinch of herbs on a vibrant finish.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Westcott Violette Sparkling 2019 ($26)
• Lakeview Cellars Riesling Icewine 2016 ($35 for 200 mL)
• Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2019 ($19 with $1 off until Aug. 16)
• Featherstone Phoenix 2019 ($19)
• 13th Street Red Palette 2017 ($16)
• Magnotta Venture Series Pinot2 Rosé 2019 ($15)
• Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2019 ($20)