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A roundup of Niagara wines, our picks from Vintages and news

By Rick VanSickle

In this Niagara Wine Report from year-end tastings, we visit Two Sisters and Vineland Estates plus taste new wines from Malivoire, Henry of Pelham and offer a roundup of wines coming to Vintages.

Odds and ends …

Lockdown, again: As I write this, more and more Niagara wineries are pausing in-house tastings and closing their restaurants until the end of January due to the Omicron variant. While some wineries still have retail sales, many don’t, so it is best to call ahead before venturing out into Ontario Wine Country. All wineries are ramping up their online presence, so you can order your favourite VQA wines and have them delivered to your front door.

Pandemic Special: There are some pretty good deals on local wines right now, but I came across this unique offering from Wending Home Estate Vineyard and Winery in Niagara:

With the recent news announced yesterday, we wanted to make sure you were prepared for the coming weeks. … with our 2022 Lockdown Survival Kit! This kit contains 6 bottles of Wending Home wine with a 15% discount and FREE SHIPPING. Because we want to make sure you make the most of the situation, each wine is handpicked to pair with a specific lockdown moment:

Rosé – Pair with when you need to relax after having an exhausting day going from your fridge, to your couch, to your desk, to your fridge, and then the couch, and then your desk.
Riesling – Drink when you run out of the holiday chocolate you received, and you want to maintain the sweet bliss of ignorance.
Wending North – To be opened when you are looking for an inspiring blend to drink as you multitask the work/Netflix balance
Sauvignon Blanc – Opened with the moment when your kid is in the other room doing an online French class and you feel the need to practice your vocabulary.
Pinot Gris — To pair with your ‘fancy’ sweatpants.
Cabernet Franc – When you realize you haven’t eaten a single fruit or vegetable since New Years, and want to finally start your New Years Resolution of eating healthier.

Adamo changes: Adamo Estate Winemaker Shauna White, above, who took the Hockey Valley winery to instant respectability with her ability to source premium grapes throughout Niagara and supplement what the estate grew, has left her position and is now home in B.C. She will be missed from winescape in Ontario. Jonas Newman (owner and winemaker at Prince Edward County’s Hinterland Wine Company) has been hired back as the winemaking consultant. He was instrumental in those early years as the family planted the very first vines and offered advice to White in creating long-lasting partnerships with Ontario growers. Jonas will be working closely with Renan Theilloux, the estate’s associate winemaker, and vineyard manager Vanessa McKean as Adamo begins a new chapter.

Stratus ch-ch-changes: Stratus Vineyard assistant winemaker Dean Stoyka has been promoted to winemaker at the Niagara-on-the-Lake estate. Founding winemaker J-L Groux remains as head winemaker, but more in an advisory role than hands on. Over the coming years, Groux will continue to slow down his full-time status at Stratus.

New wines from Two Sisters

Niagara wines

Two Sisters Unoaked Chardonnay 2019 ($39, 92 points) — This personable Chardonnay is sourced from a nearly 50-50 blend of old vine Lenko Vineyard (Beamsville Bench) and estate fruit. The wine is made completely in stainless steel, with only light lees stirring, which gives it some weight and tricks one into thinking there just might be some spice in this wine, but don’t be fooled, it is 100% sans oak. The nose shows lovely creamy pear, ripe apple, lemon zest and subtle summer peach in a pure and fresh style. It has nice weight and mouth feel on the palate with ripe apple/pear and quince notes with flinty minerality and vibrancy through a fresh finish. Really nice Chardonnay.

Two Sisters Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($68, 93 points) — This estate Cabernet Sauvignon spent 30 months in French oak barriques (15% new) and a further rest period in bottle. What a beautifully elegant wine. The nose shows saturated and rich blackberries, black currants, anise/licorice with subtle eucalypt, elegant spice notes and fresh-turned soil. The tannins are grippy on the palate of this well-structured red with concentrated and ripe dark berries, minty notes, kirsch, earth, fine oak spices, tar, leather and an electric finish keeping this bold red wine nicely balanced. It’s recommended you cellar this or, at least, decant before enjoying now. Cellar 7+ years.

Two Sisters Lush Sparkling Rosé 2019 ($54, previously reviewed in sparkling roundup, 93 points) — This is a traditionally made Chardonnay (63%) and Pinot Noir blend that spends over 588 days on the lees before disgorging. It’s the first Lush from Two Sisters that is vintage dated and was tasted recently with winemaker Adam Pearce at the winery. A small amount of Cabernet Franc from 2015 is used for the dosage (primarily for colour). It shows a pretty soft pink hue in the glass with a vigorous, frothy mousse. The nose shows enticing field strawberries and cream, fresh lemon, biscuit and toasty notes. It’s crisp and lively on the palate with an energetic mouse, an elegant creamy texture, bright red berries, citrus zest, toasty vanilla and baked bread in a dry and refreshing style through a lifted finish.

A Riesling you need from Vineland

Vineland Estate Semi-Dry Riesling 2020 ($16, 89 points) — This Semi-Dry Riesling from winemaker Brian Schmidt has always been a benchmark for me and the Riesling I always single out when someone (and I can’t believe there are still people out there like this!) says they don’t like Riesling. Riesling, along with Cabernet Franc are dear to Schmidt’s heart and he puts as much effort (maybe more) into the entry level, Niagara sourced versions of the Riesling and Cabernet Franc as he does with his top estate wines. At $16, it’s a super bargain that will age gracefully for many years to come. It’s juicy and ripe on the nose, but also fresh and lively with peach, green apple and sharp citrus-lime notes. It bursts with grapefruit, peach and honey accents on the palate with a lovely sweet-tart tug thing going on through a lively and vibrant finish. It’s perfectly balanced with a modest 10.5% abv. Go get it. 

I was also enjoyed a taste of a dusty, old bottle of the 2002 regular Cabernet Franc while tasting recently with Schmidt in the barrel cellar. It was mind-blowing how well this had aged, and to think it was $12.95 at the time of purchase (and today only $2 more expensive). It just shows you that well made wine at any price point is worthy of your cellar.

Two new wines from Malivoire

Malivoire Stouck Farmstead Red 2019 ($27, 90 points) — The grapes are sourced from assistant winemaker Dan Stouck’s family vineyard in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation. It’s a blend of 57% Merlot and 43% Cabernet Sauvignon and was aged in equal parts of French and American oak, 15% of which was new oak. It has a savoury, woodsy nose of black cherries, brambly raspberries, plums, black currants and spicy accents. It’s bold and structured on the palate with evident tannins and the full range of anise, cassis and currants with black cherries, rich barrel spice notes, earthy notes, spice and a vibrant finish. Can cellar 5+ years.

Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2019 ($35, 92 points) — The Chardonnay juice from winemaker Shiraz Mottiar’s Beamsville Bench vineyard was wild fermented in older French barriques. Partial malolactic conversion took place during eight months on the lees. It has a lovely saline nose of fresh pear, green apple, lemon chiffon, lime zest and subtle spice and lees notes. It shows rich and ripe pear, toasted spice, apple, pineapple, toasted almonds and juicy through a lifted finish.

Henry of Pelham best buy

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2020 ($16, 90 points) — This “classic” tier blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is a fabulous value red wine from a great vintage. It has a bold and sassy nose of dark plums, blackberries, anise, earthy/savoury notes and spice. It’s full-bodied on the palate with ripe dark berries, a touch of cherries, earthy notes, medium+ tannins and depth with a lifted finish. Can even cellar this for a few years.

On Seven coming to Classics Collection

Were you disappointed you missed out on getting the top Chardonnay made at On Seven in Niagara last summer? Well, you are in luck. The On Seven The Devotion is coming to the January Classics Collection Online  with ordering starting Jan. 6 at 8:30 a.m. here. It’s a gorgeous Chardonnay. Here is our review:

On Seven The Devotion Chardonnay 2018 ($65, 94 points) — The Devotion is a blend of Chardonnay from the finest retention of the soils at the estate vineyard in Niagara-On-The-Lake. Winemaker Peter Gamble zeroes in on the best barrels and clonal differences for this top Chardonnay from the estate. It shows a golden colour in the glass and is tight on the nose until you swirl to open it up. The reward is immediate; pure elegance, quince, lemon zest, crushed rock, salinity, subtly buttery notes, nougat and fine spice accents. There is depth, concentration and persistence on the palate with ripe pear and golden apple melting seamlessly into the wet stone minerality, zesty citrus notes, elegant spices, toasted almonds and vanilla and a long, long finish driven by electric acidity. This is a long-lived Chardonnay that will reward with extended time in the cellar. It is a must for lovers of fine Chardonnay.

Niagara wines coming to
Vintages stores Jan. 8

• Frogpond Farm Organic Chardonnay 2017 ($18)
• PondView Bella Terra Chardonnay 2020 ($20)
• Featherstone Cabernet Franc (no vintage, no price available)
• G. Marquis The Silver Line Pinot Noir (no vintage, no price available)
• Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir (no vintage, no price available)
• Kew Barrel Aged Gamay Noir 2019 ($18)
• Marynissen Cabernet Franc 2019 ($18)