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Niagara Wine Report: Hernder, Rosewood, Reif in the news, plus new wine reviews

By Rick VanSickle

In this Niagara Wine Report, we have news on Hernder Estates’ first public event after a devastating fire, a Rosewood wine in support of Ukraine and sweet success for Reif, plus a pile of new wine reviews.

The wines reviewed feature Rockway Vineyards, Malivoire and Henry of Pelham, but first … the news …

Winesday the first public event at Hernder Estate

Niagara wine

Two months after a devastating fire swept through the historic Hernder Estate Wine facilities, hope is in the air with the announcement that Winesday: The Musical + Wine Tasting will open at the winery this summer, a news release says. Last March 2, Five Cork Productions announced a unique new partnership with Hernder Estate Wines, a historic VQA winery with more than six decades of experience of grape growing in the heart of Niagara’s wine country.

Just a few weeks later, the future seemed grim after the Hernder property suffered a tragic fire, destroying much of the site. With the main event and public spaces destroyed, it appeared that more than two years of planning for the production had come to an unexpected end. But upon learning that the Luna Lounge, a new adjacent space at the winery, was spared by the fire, Five Cork Productions began to regroup. The Producers announced that they will be launching the show at Hernder Estate Wines this year after all and that Winesday: The Musical + Wine Tasting will be the first public event held at Hernder since the fire.

“When we woke up to the news about the tragedy at Hernder, we were absolutely devastated for everyone at Hernder Estates,” said Larissa Vogler, co-founder of Five Cork Productions. “We knew how much history and tradition existed in those buildings. We wanted to support the Hernder family the best we could, so we delayed our production until we knew what the future held. We wanted to be able to continue our partnership, if possible, as a way to support Hernder during this difficult time. This is why we could not be more honoured to be the first public event as they begin to rebuild.”

This theatre run is not only a celebration of Hernder’s rebuilding, but also a rare opportunity to attend performances produced by one of Canada’s only female-founded and operated theatre companies. Winesday: The Musical + Wine Tasting, offers wine drinkers, theatre aficionados and musical lovers a one-of-a-kind production: celebrating female friendship through song, dance and wine. “The last two months have been overwhelming, but we aren’t giving up,” said Angel Fusarelli, manager of Hernder Estate Wines. “We want to rebuild and welcome our customers back to the winery as soon as possible. What better way to do that than with an uplifting, heartfelt and fun musical that celebrates wine?”

Winesday: The Musical + Wine Tasting is the journey of five wine-drinking women who get together every Wednesday night. Theoretically they’re meeting for book club or yoga, but really, they just want to drink wine and talk about their lives. Imagine “cabaret” meeting “cabernet” with a healthy dose of great music and dance in between. If you love wine, music and laughter, this show provides all of the above, while helping support the rebuilding of one of Niagara region’s most historic venues.

Tickets went on sale on sale this past Tuesday. For ticket information go here.

Sweet success for Reif Estate Winery

Reif Estate Winery won the Canadian Icewine Trophy and a gold medal for its 2019 vintage of the Grand Reserve Vidal Icewine at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) in London, England.

The winery was also informed that Reif winemaker Roberto DiDomenico, above, has been shortlisted for Sweet Winemaker of the Year at the prestigious awards. “It is always exciting to hear when any of our wines have won a gold medal at a wine competition of this caliber but to receive the news of a trophy and recognition in being short-listed for a winemaker of the year, is beyond every winemaker’s dream and truly an honour,” said DiDomenico.

In its 38th year, the IWC is considered by many as the world’s most rigorous, impartial and influential annual wine competitions. Each year IWC judges assess every wine ‘blind’ and then the wines are tasted again, on at least three other separate occasions. The IWC judging teams include experts, buyers, and influencers from the international wine industry, as well as Masters of Wine working in unison to find the highest quality wines from the 52 wine-producing countries represented in the competition.

Rosewood’s wine for Ukraine

Rosewood Estate Winery on the Beamsville Bench continues to show generous support for the people of Ukraine during its brutal war with Russia.

The winery bottled a wine called Blue & Yellow, a first vinho verde style wine with 100% of after-tax profits being donated to the Ukraine via Unite with Ukraine.

“Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine’s flag is not only beautiful but symbolic,” a Rosewood news release says. “Blue presents peace and the sky above, while yellow represents prosperity and the many wheat fields of Ukraine. We wanted to honour and help Ukraine during this difficult time with this unique one-of-a-kind donation wine from the challenging 2021 vintage.

“The fight is still there; the fight will be long, and Ukraine will need help. Help to overcome this evil and then rebuild.”

The wine is 100% Riesling, low alcohol of 9% abv with racy acidity. It’s bottled unfined (vegan friendly) with a bit of o2 for an added pop on the palate. “This wine is dangerously quaffable on hot summer day,” the release says.

Blue & Yellow is now available at the estate’s bottle shop here. Free Ontario shipping over $125 and free Canada wide shipping on 12+ bottles.

Rockway winemaker’s debut wine

Rockway Pinot Gris 2021 ($20, 89 points) — This is the first wine new Rockway winemaker Simone Ardiel made from scratch. The Gris is sourced from a vineyard in Lincoln Lakeshore, just north of King Street closer to the bench. After wild fermentation, the wine was left on the lees for four months before being stabilized, filtered, and bottled. It’s brimming with peach, apple skin, pear, melon and just a hint of zesty citrus on the nose. It’s fresh and lively on the palate with balanced melange of orchard fruits, leesy/mineral notes and a vibrant, lifted finish. A summer refresher.

New wines from Malivoire

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2021 ($20, Vintages, 91 points) — This completes the terrific trio of rosés winemaker Shirz Mottiar crafts at the Beamsville Bench winery (the other two have been previously reviewed but are reprised below). The Vivant is a blend of 88% Pinot Noir and 12% Pinot Gris. It shows a light onion skin colour in the glass followed by an attractive nose of fresh cherries, summer strawberries, melon, and apple. It’s juicy on the palate and loaded with red berries, a touch of herbs, melon and just a kiss of sweetness on the fresh and lifted finish.

Previous reviewed Malivoire rosés

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2021 ($25, 92 points) — A new look and another beauty from Malivoire’s multi-tiered rosé portfolio. This Pinot Noir based rosé shows a pale pink colour in the glass with a nose of fresh-picked raspberries, strawberries, subtle herbs and a hint of citrus zest. It’s ripe on the palate but made in a bone-dry expression with a basket of red berries, mouth-watering acidity and a zesty lime finish.

Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2020 ($17, LCBO, 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!

New wines from Henry of Pelham

Henry of Pelham Rosé 2021 ($15, Vintages, 88 points) — This friendly rosé shows a pale pink colour in the glass with aromas of brambly red berries with subtle notes of citrus and herbs. There is some sweetness on the palate with ripe raspberries, cranberries, and a touch of earth/savoury accents on a bright finish.

Henry of Pelham Dry River Riesling 2020 ($20, Vintages, 91 points) — Sourced from estate grapes grown on the Short Hills Bench, this lovely Riesling has an impressive nose of lime, wet stones, grapefruit, tropical notes, and candy apple. It’s quite ripe and awash in apple, lime, and peach on the palate with an interesting vein of minerality all lifted by mouth-watering acidity. Can cellar 5+ years.

Henry of Pelham Riesling 2021 ($15, Vintages, 88 points) — This “classic” tier bottling is a more straight-forward example of Niagara Riesling with a nose of bright citrus, green apple, and peach skin. There are honey notes on the plate with the full range of lime/grapefruit, summer peach and razor-sharp acidity on the finish. Perfect summer porch sipper.

Henry of Pelham Family Tree The Padré Cabernet-Merlot 2020 ($18, Vintages, 89 points) — This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot benefits from 16 months (new and old oak) of barrel aging. The nose is bold and sassy and chock full of ripe dark cherries, cassis, anise and earthy/spicy/cedar notes. It’s juicy and ripe on the palate with some tannic structure, black cherries, dark plums, anise and cassis with prominent oak spices and a fairly finessed finish. Good value red.

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2020 ($28, Vintages, 93 points) — Henry of Pelham has the largest selection of Bacos in the region — and it’s not even close. This top tier bottling is sourced from the estate’s oldest vineyard planted in 1982 and spends 12 months in one- and two-year-old American oak barrels. Fans of Baco will love this bold red that benefits from the warm 2020 vintage. It’s the most concentrated Baco from Niagara that I have tasted with a dense purple hue in the glass and a nose of kirsch, anise, ripe plums, brambly red fruits, crème de cassis and full-on barrel spice notes and integrated savoury notes. It’s mouth-filling on the palate with saturated ripe red berries, earthy/savoury notes, cassis jam, anise/licorice, firm tannic structure and a long, spicy finish. If you like your reds big and juicy with cellar power, this wine is for you.