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Niagara Wine Report: 2027 adds Cab Franc to portfolio, new website for Wineries of NOTL, Vintages highlights

By Rick VanSickle

The first retail shop ever for the once virtual Niagara winery 2027 Cellars only open this past spring — in the middle of a pandemic.

But that hasn’t slowed down the winemaker and owner of the 2027 Cellars, Kevin Panakapka, who has continued to broaden consumers’ choices as he stocks the shelves of the tasting room, which is located as an add-on at Calamus Winery (where he also makes the wine) in Jordan.

Niagara wine
2027 Cellars winemaker Kevin Panagapka with one of two barrels of the top secret PBR cuvee.

His recent release last week included his first Cabernet Franc, a “Loire-esk” style, as he calls it, which offers a different take on this Niagara staple. Also released at the retail store is the 2019 King Street Pinot Noir and the 2019 Wismer Vineyard-Foxcroft Block Chardonnay. The three wines are reviewed below.

I also got a sneak peek at a secret batch of wine he calls the “PBR project.” It’s two barrels of Chardonnay from the top barriques he sources from the Foxcroft Vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench and aged in his finest French oak (20% new). Even in its infancy in barrel it’s a killer wine with the elegant oak nuances bringing a new dimension to his carefully curated terroir-driven Chardonnays. It will retail for around $50 a bottle when released this year at some point. I don’t want to steal any thunder from this bottling, but stay tuned as it gets closer to the release.

Also in this Niagara Wine Report: A new website launches for Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara wines from the Vintages release this Saturday that we can recommend, including Hidden Bench, Foreign Affair, Featherstone and Flat Rock Cellars.

But first …

A trio of new 2027 wines

2027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2019 ($35, 91 points) — The style of wine Panakapka is going for with this debut Cab Franc is “Loire-esk,” he says, referring to Loire Valley versions of this grape that are more savoury with tart fruit and high acidity. And he’s not wrong, this has a lovely savoury nose of wild raspberries, herbs, cassis, anise and subtle spice. It’s Old School Cab Franc on the palate and made in a super dry, savoury style with notes of crunchy red berries, bramble, cassis, aninse, earth/loam, integrated spices and pep on the finish. This wine is the first (other than sparkling) under cork. Panakapka is now using Diam for some of his top Chards, Cab Francs and Pinots now. The fruit is sourced from Calamus Vineyard, pictured above.

2027 Cellars King Street Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 ($35, 92 points) — The King Street Vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench is usually cropped at 2 tonnes per acre and the grapes are hand harvested and hand sorted. The fruit was destemmed and 30% of it was crushed prior to a two-week cold-soak and maceration, followed by wild fermentation. The resulting wine was pressed into tank and then racked to Burgundian oak barrels (mostly older oak). The nose reveals aromas of forest berries, brambly raspberries, violets, anise, minerals and elegant spice notes. On the palate, look for tart cherries, subtle spice, fine-grained tannins, wild raspberries, anise, underlying spice notes and length though a highly finessed finish. Can cellar 5+ years.

2027 Cellars Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard-Foxcroft Block 2019 ($30, retail store soon, 93 points) — This single-vineyard Chardonnay epitomizes, for me, what 2027 Cellars is all about. Panakapka has been sourcing grapes from this special block in the Wismer Vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench for over 10 years. It has been Wines In Niagara’s Most Thrilling White Wine and never strays from being one of the top Chards made in Niagara in any given vintage. This follows closely to all the other vintages of this wine and is made similar to all the others — 100% whole cluster pressed, wild fermented, wild malo with 100% French oak aging (20%, new oak). It has a perfumed nose of ripe pear, lemon blossom, crushed stones, apple, gunflint, toasted almonds and oak nuances. It’s more overt on the palate with rich pear fruit, quince, stony/saline minerality, zesty citrus, elegant and subtle spice and toasted almonds with electric acidity lifting the fruit through a long and finessed finish. Amazing Chard that is true to the soil where it was grown. So youthful right now and a definite candidate for the cellar, say 5+ years.

New website for wineries of NOTL

Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake is kicking off its “Taste the Season at Home” campaign with a brand new website. The site, designed by St. Catharines company Form & Affect, was just launched here. The new website was designed by Form & Affect.

“Since we won’t be able to offer our traditional Taste the Season touring program this November, we wanted to give people an opportunity to create their own Taste the Season experience at home,” said Laura Vertucci, marketing manager of Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. “Each winery is offering a carefully curated 6-pack with some great wine selections for the fall and the holidays,” she added. Also in each pack they are including recipes from local restaurant chefs that pair with the wines.

The new website has a page which will be used for exclusive winery offers. In October and November the page will be used to feature the Taste the Season at Home 6-packs and in the future will be used for other wine promotions. The page offers a preview of all the offers and by clicking on BUY NOW customers are redirected to individual winery websites where they can place their orders.

Niagara wine releases
at Vintages this Saturday

There are some delicious Niagara wines being released at Vintages stores this Saturday, including two wines from Hidden Bench, two wines from Featherstone, Foreign Affair and Flat Rock Cellars.

Here’s what we can recommend:

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($30, 92 points) — A blend of all three estate vineyards and aged in a mix of French oak barriques and puncheons with no more than 26% new oak. It’s finished unfined and unfiltered. It has a fresh, bright opening note with pear fruit, lemon zest, apricot, toasted oak spices and a hint of marzipan and minerality. It’s a beautifully constructed Chardonnay, rich and finessed with a lemony/minerally profile that adds pear, crisp apple, touch of cream and length through the fresh finish.

Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2017 ($25, 91 points) — A blend of the three estate vineyards, this has an enticing nose of lime, grapefruit, salinity and stony minerality. The fruit is tangy, fresh and mouth filling on the palate with gushing lime-citrus, minerals, a touch of peach and rollicking acidity to carry it through a lively finish.

The Foreign Affair Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($40, 91 points) — So, 20% of the fruit is dried for 45 days and the wine is aged for 18 months in American and French oak. The nose displays bright blackberries, savoury red fruits, black cherry, elegant oak spice notes and earthy/meaty notes. It’s quite earthy on the palate with smoky undertones to go with ripe black currants, blackberries, subtle red berries, leather, enticing spices and chewy tannins with a highly structured frame. Can cellar 5+ years.

Flat Rock Cellars Good Kharma Chardonnay 2019 ($17, 88 points) — A portion of the sales from this Good Kharma wine goes to Feed Ontario, which provides meals for Ontarians in need. This unoaked style of Chardonnay has pure and fresh aromas of tropical fruits, peach, bright apple, minerals and just a hint of creaminess. It’s clean and fresh on the palate with orchard fruits, peach, pineapple and zippy acidity through the finish.

Featherstone Canadian Oak Chardonnay 2018 ($22, 91 points) — A specialty at Featherstone with the fruit aged in 100% Canadian oak, with 10% of the barrels new oak and the rest older barrels for 10 months. It shows a nice golden glow in the glass with a nose of pear, apple, spice, cream and butterscotch. It’s creamy and rich on the palate with poached pear, baked apple, a touch of lemon zest, spicy oak accents, good texture and verve through the finish.

Featherstone Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18, 90 points) — 20% of the fruit was barrel fermented in neutral Canadian oak barrels. It has an inviting nose of grapefruit, gooseberries, herbs, guava, kiwi and subtle spice notes. It’s fresh and vibrant on the palate with grapefruit, kiwi, gooseberries, integrated herbs and spice and mouth-watering acidity on the finish.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Kew Marsanne/Viognier 2017 ($20)
• Creekside Gamay 2017 ($19)
• Cave Spring Indian Summer Select Late Harvest Riesling 2017 ($25 for 375 mL)