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Let the wine flow … again: Plus, new tasty ciders, Rieslings and rosé, oh my!

By Rick VanSickle

Wineries, restaurants, cideries, breweries, distilleries and all businesses that painfully endured the latest lockdown in Niagara are ready once again to serve consumers beginning this Friday.

The province was initially supposed to begin Phase 1 of the plan, called the Roadmap to Reopen, on June 14, but instead the new rules will take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday.

Niagara wine

Phase 1 allows for changes like larger outdoor gatherings, patio dining with up to four people and non-essential retail to open at 15 per cent capacity.

If you are planning to visit Niagara or live here and want to tour, taste and eat at wineries, breweries or distilleries, please plan ahead — every business is different and many are taking reservations only. Call ahead before you go, be kind and stay safe out there!

I wanted to reprint this message from the Honsberger Estate Instagram feed to offer a taste of what many smaller, family run winery/restaurants are feeling and for us to better understand what they are going through. Not all wineries can open on Friday, so be patient. This is their message:

“What does reopening look like to a small family owned business? It’s scary. We all know that the only thing that has been consistent is the inconsistency of the reopening and shutdowns for the last year.

“As a customer, the relief of being able to dine out and dine in has been a welcoming announcement. As a restaurant, it is scary. Do we look forward to seeing friends and familiar faces? Of course we do. But it’s just a fact that among all the bustle of positive thought comes the natural anxiety of … what ifs … right?

“For this family, reopening cannot happen at the push of a button. We could not turn around and be prepared for reservations this weekend, and luckily for Niagara, so many other places can be. But this brings us to say that our patio service will not begin until June 16. Remember that time we were given other dates and so on? Well, that’s what we have planned for and that’s where it stands.

“BUT PLEASE: remember that when you are dining out in this coming week that those owners, chefs, servers, staff and probably the property dog are all going through something new. Something exciting maybe. Something daunting. Something personal. Remember that we expect respect. We deserve respect and in turn so do you as a guest. Be kind. Be humble. Be a friend. We are all families trying to get through something while getting back to the community that we miss.”

— The Honsberger family

In this Ontario drinks report: A retrospective of three terroir-specific Rieslings from Southbrook Vineyards and a killer rosé and Pinot Noir from Malivoire.

But first …

Loch Mór Cider Co.

A lot of Canadian wines and ciders arrive at the tasting table here at Wines In Niagara on a regular basis, but it’s an undiscovered cidery, a unique Riesling project and a stunner of a Niagara rosé that gets our full attention today.

Loch Mór Cider Co. in Prince Edward County has taken on the task of introducing consumers to dry apple ciders made using estate traditional apple that are chock full of tannins and flavours often associated with wine. The orchard has over 10 acres of cider specific varieties of trees planted, numbering 29 different varieties thus far.

This is our first time tasting these unique ciders, and you can count us impressed. There aren’t many cideries in Ontario taking this approach to cider making that uses rare breeds of apples and a winemaking approach to crafting the ciders.

All of the apples they use are pressed on site at harvest when the fruit is at peak of flavour. The ciders are slowly fermented over the winter and bottled in the spring or later. The motto here is: “We like our cider full of flavour and not full of sugar.”

Here’s what I tasted and liked:

Loch Mór Cider Danforth Rd. Series: Russet ($12 for 375 mL bottle, 91 points) — This is a single-variety cider using golden Russets from the estate and made in the ancestral method. It shows a golden colour in the glass with soft effervescence and zero g/l of RS and 10.2% abv. It has a mature, mulled golden apple nose with caramel, toasted vanilla and spice notes. It has a lovely creamy texture on the palate with rich apple notes, toffee, toasted spices and fairly vibrant finish.

Loch Mór Cider Danforth Rd. Series: Harrison ($13 for 375 mL bottle, 90 points) — The Harrison is also a single-variety cider from the estate and the first Canadian cidery to produce a single variety from this rare apple. It’s barrel fermented with wild yeast and shows a brickish colour in the glass with a nose of bruised and baked apple, apricot tart, marmalade and spice. It’s quite tasty on the palate with bright apples, nectarine and spice (but not overdone) with a crisp, long finish. 8.3% abv.

Loch Mór Cider Savvy Pomme Still ($18 for 750 mL bottle, 92 points) — This is the still version of cider above and, wow, I love the pure salinity on the nose with crisp apple, tropical notes and subtle grassy accents. The palate reveals bin apples notes, pear skin, touch of spice, a bit off-dry but impeccably balanced. 8.5% abv.

Loch Mór Cider Savvy Pomme Sparkling ($8.90 for 375 mL, 91 points) — This sparkling single-variety Pomme Gris is finished with 8.5% abv and has a modest 6 g/l of RS. It has a bright nose with fresh apples, hints of minty herbs and citrus accents. There’s a lovely vigorous mousse on the palate with zippy apple, lemon, herbs and freshness though the finish.

Loch Mór Cider Pommeau ($32 for 375 mL bottle, 93 points) — Pommeau is a fortified, after dinner style sip along the lines of Port. It is best served ice cold with strong cheeses. At 18.5% abv, it has a heady/boozy nose of crème brule, candied apricot, baked apples, wild honey, marmalade and spice rack. It feels like a funky cognac on the palate with compoted tropical fruits, apple tart, boozy and super sweet notes with toffee, caramel and spice. It’s all tempered somewhat on the finish with racy acidity. A surprisingly delicious nightcap.

A triology of Rieslings from Southbrook

Under the Whimsy! label, Southbrook wanted to explore three unique terroirs of Riesling using the same winemaking technique and letting the fruit do all the talking.

Winemaker Ann Sperling chose three organic vineyards she enjoys working with — Saunders, Laundry and Medallion — from different sub-appellations. Fermentation was halted early on all three wines to create a richer, medium-dry style of wine and the residual sugar and alcohol content was similar in all three wines. What you get here is an inside look at how different vineyards impact the wine. Fascinating!

These were made in tiny quantities and are going primarily to Southbrook wine club members, but if there are any left, Southbrook owner Bill Redelmeier says there might be a few bottles available to non-members. Price are omitted here because they are part of the wine club packages. Note, the bottles I tasted were unlabelled, as noted in the photo above.

Southbrook Whimsy! Saunders Vineyard Riesling 2020 (92 points) — This Beamsville Bench sourced Riesling was wild fermented in two stainless steel barrels and fermentation was halted early. The abv is 11.1% and the RS is 30 g/l. This is the most minerally of the trio with pure river rock on the nose then lovely lime, grapefruit, green apple, lemon curd and peach fuzz. It’s off-dry on the palate and awash in stony minerality, juicy apple, candied citrus, lime zest and a zippy vein of acidity keeping it all fresh and lively though the finish.

Southbrook Whimsy! Laundry Vineyard Riesling 2020 (91 points) — This is sourced from the Vinemount Ridge sub-app and is made in a similar fashion as the other wines in this group. It was finished at 11.9% abv with 29 g/l of RS. There is freshness and joy on the nose of this personable Riesling with a note of saline minerality and then lemon-lime, yellow apple and summer peaches. It’s a touch off-dry with notes of sweet orchard fruits on the palate, lime kefir, honey, necatarine and lemon zest with a bright, balancing finish.

Southbrook Whimsy! Medallion Vineyard Riesling 2020 (90 points) — This vineyard is located in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub appellation and has the highest abv (10.7%) and lowest RS (26 g/l) of the trio. It has a rich and vibrant nose that shows ripe peach, pear, lime/citrus and wet stones. It’s quite rich and ripe on the palate with peaches, pear, lime zest, wild honey and juicy, mouth-watering acidity.

Malivoire Wine Co. Rosé and Pinot

Malivoire long ago drew a line in the sand and determined exactly what they wanted to make from its small estate on the Beamsville Bench and from trusted growers, including winemaker Shiraz Mottiar’s own vineyard.

Pinot Noir — rosé, table and sparkling — is definitely one of the winery’s star attractions. On the rosé side of things, Mottiar makes three still versions of rosé, with the single vineyard Moira Rosé, named after Moira Saganski, wife of owner Martin Malivoire, standing at the top tier of rosés at the winery, but also in the entire land.

Simply put, the Moira from the incredible 2020 vintage is best Canadian rosé I have ever tasted. And the Mottiar Pinot Noir, also reviewed below, along with the other rosés in the portfolio, are pretty exciting as well.

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2020 ($25, 94 points) — For sure, the highest score for a rosé I have ever doled out. And I don’t do it lightly. But forget the score, it’s just a number and only reflects one reviewer’s excitement of tasting such a brilliant, perfectly made Pinot Noir rosé, and not by accident; winemaker Shiraz Mottiar has been perfecting this zero-sugar, dry style of rosé long before anyone else in Niagara and this is the culmination of that hard work. This is the driest of the three still rosés made at Malivoire and is hand-picked from the estate’s original Moira Vineyard. The whole grape clusters were gently pressed for minimal contact between juice and skins. It shows a super pale salmon colour in the glass with such a pretty, yet penetrating, nose of summer cherries, grapefruit, raspberry tart and subtle quince notes. It’s crisp, yet textured, and packed with fresh red berries, watermelon, pink grapefruit and mineral notes all leading to a highly electric, finessed and mouth-watering finish. You will want another sip and you won’t stop until the last drop has been squeezed from the bottle. Trust me on that. Bravo, Malivoire team. Note: Reviews of the other two still rosés in the Malivoire family are republished below.

Malivoire Mottiar Pinot Noir 2019 ($40, 93 points) — We move further along Old Highway 8, where Mottiar’s own Beamsville Bench vineyard is the source for this lovely Pinot Noir. The fruit was fermented in 90% concrete vats and the rest in stainless steel using wild yeast. Two-thirds of the grapes were destemmed, crushed and co-fermented with a one-third portion of whole clusters. The wine was transferred to neutral French oak barriques to age for 10 months. It has a beautifully perfumed nose with forest berries, wild raspberries, Morello cherries, fresh-turned earth, crushed stones and elegant spice notes. Such depth, complexity and length on the palate with a persistent attack of red berries, earthy notes, subtle toasty spices and a long, long finessed finish. Hard not to put some down in the cellar to see where this is going, but also irresistible right now. A beauty.

The other rosés from Malivoire

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2020 ($20, previously reviewed,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.

Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2020 ($17, LCBO, previously reviewed, 90 points) — This wildly popular Ladybug is the pillar of the rosé family at Malivoire that includes two other still rosés and a sparkling version. They take their rosés very seriously. The 2020 version of the Ladybug appears a bit lighter in colour to last year’s version, showing a paler shade of pink in the glass. It’s a blend of 47% Cabernet Franc, 46% Gamay and the rest Pinot Noir and has an attractive nose of red berries, subtle herbs, watermelons and plums. It’s refreshing and bursting with the full range of red berries, herbs, apple skin and a refreshing finish with mouth-watering acidity. This might just be the driest Ladybug to date. It’s a delight!