By Rick VanSickle
Just the simple pleasure of being able to travel again within our small, yet stunning beautiful part of the world, brings such joy.
My wife Maureen and I were able to get away for a few days last week to a cottage on the shores of Georgian Bay that came with an endless parade of golden sunsets (see top and below photos) every night that had us watching in awe. We enjoyed a wide array of tasty Ontario VQA wines, some for review, others, well, just because. The views paired extraordinarily well with the wines and reminded us once again that we are so lucky to live where we do.
With COVID restrictions easing up and more and more of us receiving first and second vaccines, we all have some catching up to do. It’s time again to support the hard work of our neighbours, grab some fantastic local wine, visit wine country and return to normal as best we can.
In this Ontario wine report, we shine a spotlight on new releases from 2027 Cellars, a Chardonnay from Lighthall Vineyards in Prince Edward County and our picks from the Vintages release on Saturday, including Domaine Queylus Tradition Cabernet Franc 2018, Vineland Estates Frirenzy Sparkling Rosé, Flat Rock Pink Twisted Rosé 2020 and Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut Sparkling 2016.
Four new wines from 2027 Cellars
2027 Cellars Contrary 2020 ($20, 90 points) — This is the only VQA Niagara Peninsula appellation wine that winemaker/owner Kevin Panagapka produces, but draw no conclusions from that. This still has all the hallmarks of a carefully sourced appellation blend made in a style that fits perfectly into the 2027 portfolio. The blend is 25% Pinot Gris from the Falls Vineyard in Jordan and 75% Chardonnay sourced from the GreenLane Vineyard in Beamsville. The grapes were hand picked and whole cluster pressed then fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks. It has an inviting nose of bright apple, melon, summer peach and nectarine. It’s bone dry on the palate, unusual for proprietary white blends at this price point, and has a ripe, forward fruit profile on the palate with a bright finish. At $20, a crowding-pleasing wine at a great price.
2027 Cellars Edgerock Vineyard Brut Rosé 2017 ($45, 93 points) — This traditionally made, 100% Pinot Noir sourced from the Twenty Mile Bench was fermented in steel tanks and held on the gross less for 4 months prior to triage. The finished wine was aged on the lees for 30 months prior to disgorging. It has a lovely onion skin colour in the glass and a complex, inviting nose of brioche, leesy notes, bright red berries and lemon toast. It has an elegant, vigorous bead in the glass with notes of fresh-picked red berries, raspberry bramble, brioche/toasty/bready notes and a bright, lifted, finessed finish from the mouth-watering acidity. A lovely bubble.
2027 Cellars Wismer-Foxcroft — Foxcroft Block Gamay Rosé 2020 ($22, 90 points) — As per the house style, this is a perfectly dry rosé that shows a pale salmon colour in the glass. It’s quite aromatic, showing the beauty of 2020 fruit in Ontario, with forest berries, cherries, brambly raspberries, plums and just a hint of citrus zest. It’s juicy but refreshing on the palate with layers of red berries, rhubarb and plums all leading to a freshening finish.
2027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 ($30, 92 points) — Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) is what Panagapka thrives on and he makes some of the finest examples of single-vineyard bottlings in the Niagara region. This is sourced from the Vinemount Ridge and is 100% barrel fermented (20% new) and aged in French oak for 14 months prior to racking and left to settle in stainless tanks for two more months. It has a mineral-laden nose of chalky flint, ripe pear, lemon toast, apple and elegant oak spice notes. It’s rich and textured on the palate with pear, yellow apple, citrus zest biting on the edges, spice and then waves of flinty minerality before the mouth-watering acidity carries it through the finessed finish. Can age this 6+ years.
A beauty from Prince Edward County
Lighthall Vineyards Chardonnay 2018 ($35, 93 points) — This superb Chard was aged in 2nd and 3rd fill French oak for 12 months with regular lees stirring. It shows a light golden colour in the glass and a rich, savoury, saline nose with flint, apple, pear, lemon and toasted spice notes. It is beautiful on the palate with profound gunflint, ripe apple, lovely savoury notes with lemon zest and baking spices through the lifted, finessed finish. Class County Chard done right. Bravo!
Our Niagara picks from
the Vintages release Saturday
Domaine Queylus Tradition Cabernet Franc 2018 ($30, 92 points) —This blend of mostly Cabernet Franc with a small percentage of Merlot shows how deep the tiering goes at this terroir-driven winery. It begins with the Tradition series, which, make no mistake, is no entry-level wine. Head winemaker Kelly Mason cuts no corners in any of the wines made at the domaine, everything has purpose and attention to detail. This is a lovely example of Cab Franc with an enticing nose of warm summer wild raspberries, savoury notes, smoky cassis, spice rack, herbs and plums. It’s pure and dense on the palate with dark and red berries, campfire smoke, lovely integrated spices notes, savoury herbs with smooth tannins and a long, finessed finished. And it pairs beautifully with sunsets on Georgian Bay!
Vineland Estates Frirenzy Sparkling Rosé ($20, 89 points) — The blend for this delightful non-vintage sparkling rosé is 64% Riesling and 36% Cabernet Franc. It’s a high-energy charmat style bubbly that pours a pale salmon colour in the glass with a lively effervescent mouse and aromas of fresh red berries, touch of herbs and citrus zest. It has a steady bead in the glass with a touch of sweetness on the palate but nicely balanced by the juicy acidity and ripe fruits of raspberries, cherries, strawberry patch and citrus zest of the vibrant finish. At 12% abv, a perfect foil for the porch, pool, beach or cottage.
Flat Rock Pink Twisted Rosé 2020 ($18, 88 points) — The blend for this personable rosé consists of equal parts of Gamay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. It shows a vibrant candy apple red colour in the glass and a nose of raspberries, ripe cherries, strawberry patch and a hint of plums. There’s subtle sweetness on the palate with fresh red berries, touch of citrus zest and a lively finish.
Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut Sparkling 2016 ($30, 93 points) — What a beautiful, nicely mature and elegant sparkling wine from J-T at a remarkably affordable price for a wine at this level. The grapes were hand picked from the estate vineyard and it is a blend of Chardonnay (49%), Pinot Noir (47%) and Pinot Meunier (4%) that was whole-bunch pressed, clarified and fermented in individual varietal batches then aged en tirage for three years. It has such a beguiling nose of lemon biscuit, green apple, brioche, creamy pear with a persistent bubble in the glass. It has mouth-filling flavours of apple, pear, quince, some tropical fruits and lemon tart with toasted vanilla, almonds, marzipan and a finessed, luxurious finish. There’s pure elegance here that’s reached a nice plateau and should continue for a few more years.
Also released, but not reviewed:
• Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2020 ($25)
• The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Reserve Red 2019 ($25)
• Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2019 ($23)
• Jack Rabbit White 2019 ($18)