Just the other Saturday, Easter weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of attending Cuvée 2024, held at St. Catharines Holiday Inn and Suites.

It was a decidedly lively affair, and so my tasting notes from the latter half of the evening were, for the most part, illegible. Below, I have attempted to piece together what I could from my scrawling, cross-referencing the catalogue of producers there, and highlighting the wines I enjoyed the most over the course of the night (and into part of the next morning). Hopefully I haven’t “imagineered” any of these bottlings.

Thanks to VQA Wines of Ontario, Barb Tatarnic, and the entire Cuvée team for a most memorable evening of great local wine, excellent food, and some seriously good cheer.



2017 Château de Charmes Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé

It’s nice to see Château des Charmes making quality sparkling once again, and this one is a real delight. Pretty and perfumed on the nose, with bright red berry fruits, peach, and a squirt of lemon citrus. This continues on to a lively palate and ends with a delicate strawberry finish. This one is extremely easy to knock back… dangerously so, actually.

3.5 apples out of 5

2017 Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine “Carte Blanche” Blanc de Blanc

Henry of Pelham make some stunning sparkling wines, and this one is a real beauty. The autolytic character here really appeals, with gorgeous bread-like aromatics (54 months on lees will do that!). The micro-boules give this wine a luxuriously elegant texture. It is certainly one of my very favourite Ontario sparkling wines, and it is simply wonderful to serve blind to any Champagne snobs.

5 apples out of 5

2022 Bachelder “Les Villages” Chardonnay

It’s hard not to like Thomas Bachelder’s wines, especially if he is there in person talking them up. This one is all about that signature Bench minerality, and Bachelder certainly captures that in this particular wine. As soon as I had my first taste of this I was thinking East Coast oysters. There’s a tiny hit of oak, but with only 20% new cooperage, it’s certainly a background player. It’s one of the more Chablisienne Ontario Chardonnays I have tasted in some time.

2022 Big Head Wines “Raw” Chenin Blanc

At first, I was drawn to the minimal labelling, but upon tasting, there was much to admire about this bold Chenin. Like all of the Big Head wines, this one certainly isn’t shy, but there’s some serious character here. While these wines may not be for everyone, they are extremely well crafted and certainly satisfy those looking for bigger Ontario wines. While the fruit is certainly ripe, there’s some admirable finesse in the acid balance. The mineral finish is both persistent and satisfying.

2021 Domaine de Clos Jordanne “Claystone Terrace” Chardonnay

An old favourite of mine that I continually return to. As the vines get older, this wine just gets better and better, and it always speaks to the vintage. It could just be me, but I feel that this wine has become increasingly more reductive in style over the years, but that’s no bad thing, as the orchard fruit is all there and there’s a nice floral lift on the bouquet. The acid is crisp and correct,  some serious fruit concentration, a hint of wood spice, and there is a very enjoyable mineral finish.

2021 Inniskillin “Montague Vineyard” Chardonnay

Over the past few vintages, I’ve been so impressed by what winemaker Nicholas Gizuk has been producing from the veteran Montague vineyard. This one is no exception, and it proves that Inniskillin are back and making some rather excellent wines. I’ve spoken with Gizuk previously about the sizeable (and veteran) Montague vineyard being a real jewel in the crown for the estate, but I personally feel that it has only been over the last few vintages under his control that the fruit has been able to shine. This vintage is showing typical apples and peaches on the bouquet, with just a little hint of vanilla from the oak. There has been a considerable reduction in the oak influence of this wine over the years, and it’s all the better for it.

2022 Wescott “Butlers’ Grant Old Vine” Chardonnay

I’ve often found Wescott’s wines to be a bit up and down, but this bottling is certainly up. It’s undoubtedly a creamy, mouthfilling take on Ontario Chardonnay, but there’s enough nervy acidity to hold the whole thing together. The 30-year-old vines utilised here bring an extra layer of complexity to this enjoyable wines. I’d like to try it again in a year or so to see how it evolves.

3.5 apples out of 5

2020 Leaning Post “Senchuk Vineyard” Pinot Noir

I’ve always been a sucker for Leaning Post’s lighter wine styles, ever since their early days. This Pinot continues that tradition, presenting perfumed, floral-tinged red fruit and an almost ethereal presence on the palate. I could never tire of drinking these wines. In a way, Ilya’s wines are the absolute antithesis, the polar opposite of the Big Head style, but I think that it is certainly possible for one to appreciate both for what they are.

2021 Tawse “Cherry Avenue” Pinot Noir

Much like the Le Clos Claystone, tasting this wine is akin to meeting an old friend after 12 months apart. You can see how the last year has shaped and changed them, but they are always the same underneath. Sourced from both Robyn’s and David’s blocks, the oldest Pinot Noir vines on the estate, the Cherry Avenue is always an explosion of red and black cherries, but with an intriguing carnal, earthiness that seems to weave in and out from vintage to vintage. Beautiful silky structure here.

2022 Malivoire “Le Coeur” Gamay

Shiraz Mottiar knocks it out of the park again with this beautifully crafted take on what I personally view as Niagara’s finest red grape. The nose is all red berries, but with an interesting earthy, forest floor element that I find hugely appealing. The palate is juicy and vibrant, redolent of raspberries, sour cherries, and a little hint of blueberries. The earthy finish is seriously extended. Stunning stuff.

2019 Peninsula Ridge “McNally Vineyard” Pinot Noir

I haven’t tasted much from Peninsula Ridge in the past few years, but I found much to admire in this single-vineyard Pinot. Made from Beamsville Bench fruit, this is a delicate, lighter style that was exhibiting an absolutely stunning red cherry, strawberry bouquet with a little hit of mocha. The palate is light-to-medium bodied with some pleasantly supple tannins. I’ll have to get down to revisit Peninsula Ridge as it appears that winemaker Sean Palmer is doing some really good work there these days.

2020 Thirty Bench “Winemaker’s Blend” Cabernet Franc

Emma Garner certainly has a way with Cabernet Franc, and this $26.95 bottles delivers a hell of a lot of bang for the bucks. I’ve enjoyed so many of her Cabernet Francs in the past, but I felt that this 2020 “Winemaker’s Blend” was showing simply tremendous value. There’s a solid black fruit centre here that one would rarely see at this price. Good structure but surprisingly accessible already.

2020 Trius “Showcase – Red Shale” Cabernet Franc

Another stunning showing for Trius’ Red Shale Cabernet Franc. This one is built for some serious cellaring and will most probably be much more approachable in around three years, as right now the potential is certainly there, but it’s a very tightly wound wine that really does require a few years to come into its own. There’s a deep, dark core of pure black fruit here that seems impenetrable at first but does open up with some time in the glass. There’s a hell of a lot of structure here that requires some taming, but the foundations are all there.  I’d like to taste this again in the coming years, but this has the potential to be one of the finer examples of Ontario Cabernet Franc. Great stuff.

5 apples out of 5

(All wines are rated out of a possible five apples)