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NOTL’s Dig Our Roots festival is back, plus #OpenLocalWine deals, Ontario wine reviews

By Rick VanSickle

After a year of major wine events in Niagara cancelled due to the pandemic, it’s heartening to see at least one of them back on the calendar again.

Note: Also in this Ontario wine report we have new releases from Redtail (PEC), FieldBird Cider (PEC), Malivoire and Henry of Pelham along with our picks from two Vintages releases. As well, we have an update on the upcoming #OpenLocalWine day coming up and some local wine deals you can order.

Dig Our Roots, an annual celebration of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries, is returning in April after last year’s event had to be cancelled.

During the Dig Our Roots weekends in April, wine lovers will be able to discover what makes Niagara-on-the-Lake wines unique through exclusive, pre-reserved and safe winery experiences.

Tastings have been curated by the winemakers to offer an in-depth look at the wines unique to that appellation and reflective of the “terroir” of those vineyards.

“The term terroir is a French word that speaks to the taste and flavour of a wine based on the natural environment in which the grapes are grown, including the soil, topography, and climate, said Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake chair Andrea Kaiser. “All wines naturally differ based on where they are produced and even a vineyard has its own unique characteristics and taste profile. The terroir is something that develops over time and as Niagara-on-the-Lake is now home to some of the oldest vines in Canada, it is an ideal place to produce premium VQA wines,” Kaiser added. “Dig Our Roots is essentially a celebration of our heritage.”

Wine lovers will be able to purchase a one-day pass on April 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 or 25 and will have access to reserve four winery tastings from over 20 partner wineries that will offer exclusive on-site winery experiences. Tastings will take place at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day. Dig Out Roots ticketed experiences must be booked in advance, and COVID-19 precautions are in place at all locations.

Dig Our Roots exclusive one day passports are available on the association’s website here.

Wine lovers can also take advantage of a one-of-a-kind appellation themed package to enjoy at home. You can shop online here and sip in the comfort of your own home.

Get your wine for #OpenLocalWine
day coming up on April 10

With #OpenLocalWine day approaching on April 10, what local wine will you be tasting?

As co-founder of the popular Facebook group, #ONWineChat, Shawn McCormick explained that #OpenLocalWine day was “started by a couple of wine folks in the Northeast U.S. last year during COVID, when most tasting rooms were closed and all wineries were suffering the economic impacts of COVID-19. Launching the event not only encouraged wine lovers to try something from their local wineries, but brought attention on the number of great producers that might not have the visibility of larger name brands,” McCormick said.

Lenn Thompson is the co-founder and editor-in-chief for The Cork Report, a great blog featuring regional wineries across North America. Gina Shay is the The Cork Report’s regional editor for Michigan, but also the Cadus business development manager for a good piece of North America including Canada. Both are huge supporters of cool climate wine regions, with Shay being based in Michigan (where she also serves as a VP on the Michigan Wine Collaborative), and Thompson in New York (where in addition to his community-manager day job and his editor role, he has been a driving force in elevating the wines, beers, and spirits of the entire northeast region).

Many U.S.-based wineries offered special packages of 2-4 bottles for a great price, and some include (or supplement) the shipping to encourage people to try their wines. Thompson and Shay collect all the offers on their site (and what an impressive list it is already) here.

This year, Wines In Niagara decided to take up the cause for Ontario, and is listing local Ontario wineries offering deals directed specifically at #OpenLocalWine day.

To take part in #OpenLocalWine here in Ontario, all you need to do is:

• Get a bottle of local wine (or cider) and open it Saturday, April 10.
• Enjoy it with a nice meal – either home-cooked for takeout from your favourite local restaurant.
• Post picture(s) of the wine or wines online – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter – using the hashtag #OpenLocalWine. And tell us why you picked that wine (or wines) and who you are sharing it with.
• Raise a glass to the winemaker who made it.
• Drink it and enjoy it with your family and please also make sure that you @ mention the winery/winemaker

As well, tag the following:

On Facebook:
The Cork Report
On Instagram:
The Cork Report @corkreportmedia, Wines In Niagara @winesinniagara.
On Twitter:
The Cork Report @TheCorkReport, Wines In Niagara @rickwine

Grab these wine deals
for #OpenLocalWine day

We’re off to a good start for winery/restaurant deals in Ontario. Here are some great offers to take advantage of (we will add to this list as we get them):

Kacaba Vineyards & Winery (Niagara)

Offer: We will be featuring a 2 bottle package of 2019 Reserve Riesling & 2017 Cabernet/Syrah. The price is $43.30 per package, including a savings of $6. We offer FREE curbside pick up at the winery, as well as shipping direct to consumers for a nominal fee.
How to get it: The package can be purchased here.

PondView Estate Winery (Niagara)

Offer: Celebrate local wine on April 10 with our #OpenLocalWine Day 6-Pack!
Details: This pack includes a selection of our newest Bella Terra favourites and a PondView Estate Classic, including: 2 2019 Cabernet Franc Rosé, 2 2019 Bella Terra Chardonnay Sur Lie and 2 2018 Bella Terra Red. Price includes HST and free shipping within Ontario. On April 10, share an image of how you enjoy this pack and tag us for a chance to be featured on our Instagram! #OpenLocalWineDay @pondviewwinery
How to get it: Order online here.

Queenston Mile Vineyard (Niagara)

Offer: Secrets of St. David’s (2 bottles) — Uncover the secrets of the St. David’s Bench sub-appellation.
Details: Includes 1 bottle each of award-winning 2017 Pinot Noir and 2017 Chardonnay. The perfect wines to sip on this spring as you plan your trip to wine country. ONLY $69 (save $5) plus free direct-to-home shipping. Includes invitation to Virtual Tasting on April 29 at 7 p.m. and receive copies of Chef’s favourite local recipes.
How to get it: Purchase online here and enter promo code FREESHIP

Creekside Estate Winery

Offer: Red Tractor Spring Special (6 bottles)
Details: Welcome Spring with our Red Tractor Harvest Special, which includes 3 bottles of our 2018 Red Tractor Cabernet Franc & 3 bottles of our 2018 Chardonnay. ONLY $110 (Save $35). Free direct-to-home shipping is included.
How to get it: Order online here.

Stocked Cellars (Ontario)

Offer:  Let’s Toast to Local Wine Night Collection with 5% off
Details:  The Let’s Toast to Local Wine Night Collection comes packaged with the Alvento 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, an excellent example of a fantastic vintage, the Alvento 2019 Riesling and the Alvento 2019 South Wind Rosé for $94.95 (regular $99.95).
How to get it: Go here.

Sun-Ann Staff Estate Winery (Niagara)

Offer: #OpenLocalWinePack: Vintage 2018 Premium Whites Quartet
Details: Four pack of Sue-Ann Staff Estate whites. Includes newly released 2018 Robert’s Block Riesling, 2018 Elisha’s Chardonnay, 2018 Mabel’s VCR, and a pre-release 2018 The Louie Pinot Gris for a special, limited time offer price of $80. Special price offer valid until April 11, 2021 only.
How to get it: Purchase online here.

Harbour Estates Winery (Niagara)

Offer: Harbour Series special #OpenLocalWine
Details: We are offering a two pack of our Harbour Series wine, Harbour Sunrise (Vidal/Chardonnay) and Harbour Midnight (Cabernet/Merlot) at a special price of $20 (reg. $26) for the pair in honour of #OpenLocalWine.
How to get it: Buy at the winery or online here.

Konzelmann Estate Winery (Niagara)

Offer: Everything Happens for a Riesling
Details: The package includes three terroir driven Rieslings, all grown on the estate’s Lakefront Vineyard. Also included is a branded charcuterie board.
How to get it: Go here.

Westcott Vineyards (Niagara)

Offer: Westcott Classics Pack (10% off)
Details: Package includes two bottles of Estate and Reserve Chardonnays and two bottles of Estate and Reserve Pinot Noir.
How to get it: Go here.

Wander Food & Wine (Sudbury)

Offer: A Celebration & Tasting of Ontario Wine on #OpenLocalWine day where you can learn about and taste 5 wines from Ontario and how you can pair them with your favourite dishes.
How to get tickets: Go here.

Spring wines are flowing

Spring is the season when wineries ramp up their new wine releases after a sleepy period of reflection and finishing off the 2020 wines between Christmas and March. There just isn’t a lot of action on the local wine scene, especially in a pandemic year.

But as the weather changes and COVID rules allow a bit more room for guests, the wine starts flowing again in Ontario.

We’ve been tasting a lot of wine here at Wines In Niagara and reviews will be flowing in the coming few weeks. Here a few to tide you over, followed by two Vintages releases featuring Niagara wines.

Redtail Vineyards Gamay Rosé 2020 ($17, 89 points) — Prince Edward County’s Redtail Vineyards is getting quite a name for itself, even while we wait for the estate vineyards in The County to begin producing estate wines. The 2019 version of this Niagara-sourced Gamay rosé sold out quickly and I would expect nothing less with this vintage. It’s simply a delight, a crushable, vibrant porch sipper of the highest order. Look for a nose of wild strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb and just a touch of citrus. It’s juicy, slightly off dry and teeming with red berries, subtle bramble notes and nicely balanced on the bright finish. You can order it here.

FieldBird PEC Chardonnay 2019 (not for sale) — This was a friendly (and surprise) porch drop off from FieldBird co-owner Ryan Monkman (the nicest and most interesting man in the world, by the way), a little experimental wine project from an eclectic cider maker I feel compelled to write about. I’m always fascinated how cider makers view winemaking through their lens, what attracts them to grapes when their first love is apples? Monkman has crafted a hazy, natural inspired, even a touch reductive at first, Chardonnay that expresses pear skin, bin apple and earthy notes on the nose with a bit of funk that does blow off with some swirling. It’s much less reductive on the palate with a crisp and vibrant feel to go with pear, green apple and lemon notes with pretty good length and a refreshing and invigorating finish. Was there some skin contact? Lees aging? I don’t know, but I found it quite interesting and enjoyable. And, P.S., I could not keep it away from Maureen!

Malivoire Stouck Vineyard Merlot 2017 ($40, winery only, 92 points) — Dan Stouck is the assistant winemaker at Malivoire and his family vineyard is located on the north side of Highway 8, near Bench Brewing, just down the road from Malivoire. The wine was divided in five barrels to age — two neutral French oak, two new American oak and one neutral oak. After 8 months, the entire lot was transferred into a used 1,000 cask to age for a further five months. It has an elegant nose of black cherries, blackberries, plums, toasted vanilla, cigar box cedar, anise and barrel oak spices. It’s rich and deep, structured and layered on the palate with ripe dark cherries, cassis, wild raspberries, plums and a range of elegant spice notes. It has a long, lush finish and the potential to improve for 7+ years. A really nice Merlot.

Note: The new vintage of the Malivoire Vivant Rosé is coming to Vintages. Review is below, under the April 3 release.

Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($15, LCBO, 88 points) — A nice, affordable summer white that over-delivers on price point. The nose shows tangy grapefruit, kiwi, citrus, honeysuckle and subtle herbs. There is a touch of sweetness but nicely balanced from the racy acidity with grapefruit, citrus and melon notes on the palate with a fresh finish.

Niagara wines featured in the
March 20 Vintages release

Bachelder Les Villages Chardonnay 2018 ($35, 91 points) — The Villages is the only wine in the Bachelder Chardonnay lineup that sees new oak aging with 20% of the fruit directed to new barrels. The blend is culled from a combination of Willms, Wismer-Foxcroft and Wismer-Wingfield vineyard fruit. You can smell and taste a little bit of each vineyard in this friendly blend that offers terrific value for such a well-made wine. The nose is quite rich and expressive with ripe pear, baked apple, lemon toast and toasted vanilla bean accents. It shows a rich texture on the palate with vivid pear/apple/quince fruits, citrus zest, vanilla, spice and a lovely mineral edge on a clean and zippy finish. Good drinking right now, but can age a couple of years or more.

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.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Peller Estates Signature Series Ice Cuvée Rosé Sparkling ($37)
• Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2019 ($20)
• Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Organic Sparkling Riesling
• Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling
• Creekside Red Tractor Cabernet/Merlot 2019 ($18)
• EastDell Pinot Noir 2017 ($16)
• Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir
• The Foreign Affair Dream 2017 ($30)
• The Hare Wine Company Jack Rabbit Special Blend 2019 ($20)

Niagara wines featured in the
April 3 Vintages release

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2020 ($20, 89 points) — A bit of a departure from previous vintages, with the addition of 30% Pinot Gris to go with the Pinot Noir (70%), but still the same bone-dry style (0 grams/per litre). The Vivant has a nose of lovely strawberries, rhubarb, cherries and a nice floral note. It’s juicy, yet perfectly dry on the palate, and loaded with red berries, grapefruit, watermelon and a zesty citrus finish. Such a great rosé for spring/summer sipping.

Bachelder Saunders-Haut Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 ($45, 93 points) — Saunders is the Beamsville Bench entry into the trilogy of single-vineyard Chards at Bachelder and the second closest vineyard to the lake in the collection, selected from the highest point of the organic vineyard consisting of clay, silt, sand and limestone. “Saunders repels oak in a way the Willms does not,” says Thomas Bachelder, adding, “this is the best Sauders I’ve ever made.” It’s much more subtle on the nose than Willms, more refined with elegant saline freshness, pear, apple skin, lemon-citrus, flinty minerality and just a touch of oak spice in the background. Incredibly poised and polished on the palate with lovely quince, fresh honey, integrated oak spices, citrus accents and punctuated by the stony minerality of the sub-app. It’s a complex, refined and finessed Chardonnay that comes at you in layers and finishes with an enthralling, echoing finish. Will age beautifully for 4+ years.

13th Street Expression Riesling 2019 ($18, 88 points) — The new Expression wines at 13th Street replace the Palette series beginning with the 2019 vintage. It’s themed around the new art gallery and is an “expression of the winemaker’s style” and the “vineyard’s terroir.” The Riesling shows zippy lemon, lime and crisp apple on the nose. It’s off-dry on the palate with sweet-tart citrus, apple, peach and nicely balanced on the finish.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2018 ($25)
• Tawse Gamay Noir 2019 ($19)
• Kacaba Summer Series Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($20)
• Kew Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016 ($24)
• Cave Spring Indian Summer Select Late Harvest Riesling 2017 ($25 for 375 mL)
• Magnotta Moonlight Venture Series Sparkling NV ($26)