by Zoltan Szabo

Some lovely and interesting Ontario wines I have recently tasted, perfect for holiday entertaining…

2007 ‘Riddled’, Flat Rock’, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

Another excellent Niagara sparkler released at Vintages in mid September. ‘Riddled’ is a blend of 68% Pinot Noir and 32% Chardonnay. Very good complexity and length here. What’s unique about it, is its crown cap closure. Ed Madronich uses an axe instead of saber. Now, that’s Canadian.

2005 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Methode Classique, Jackson-Triggs, Niagara Peninsula

Colour of straw yellow with obvious cooper tint. Aromas of apples and red berries, white peach and blossoms, dried pear and brioche. Fuller-style, nicely broad over the palate, possessing a fine mousse and great freshness. There’s 10 grams per litre sugar in it which just rounds out the mouthfeel. The finish is long, persistent with nuances of orange toffee and juicy, Red Delicious apple. A great value sparkler that was disgorged this spring after ageing on fine lees for almost five years. It will please restaurateurs and Sommeliers, their clients and consumers, connoisseurs and the average bubbly lover, that’s for certain. It will match any food of your choice, especially weightier, oily white fish, well sauced, with a bit of spice and squirt of lemon. Kudos go to young winemaker, Marco Piccoli.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc Vintners Private Reserve, Peninsula Ridge, Niagara Peninsula

Pineapple, mango, kiwi, mineral – spice, medium weight and pleasant creaminess to it over the palate, fresh and savoury, mint – mineral taint on its long finish.

2009 Riesling Reserve, Organized Crime, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula

Succulent and “phat”, partially dried grapes and a little barrel aging give it excellent mouthfeel and roundness. Acids are lively and it has a long finish. I also appreciate the winery’s 2009 Fume Blanc.

2009 Chardonnay Sandstone Vineyard, 13th Street, Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

Just fantastic, reminds me of top notch Burgundy grand cru, complex yet so elegant and well balanced. Made by Jean-Pierre Colas, who seems to be making truly outstanding Pinot Noir too, after all, releasing ‘Essence’ recently. Instead of describing aromas and flavours, why don’t I just say that this is a Chardonnay that you may not want to miss enjoying.

2008 ‘Grower’s Blend’ Pinot Noir, Tawse, Niagara Peninsula

Fruit for this Pinot comes from Laundry (organic) Vineyard, Hugh’s Vineyard and Greenlane Vineyard. Red cherries, spice – nutmeg, underbrush, minerals on the nose; pure over the palate with soft – chalky tannins; even better decanted, or wait for it a bit; great with a lean and juicy steak and frittes.

2007 Merlot Reserve ‘Exclamation Cellar Series’, Pillitteri, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Slick label with metal on black, intriguing – shaped bottle. Wonderful fruit density here with polished oak, supple tannins and great length. The 2007 ‘Exclamation Cellar Series’ Cabernet Franc Reserve also very good.

2008 ‘Quintus’, Karlo Estates, Prince Edward County

Blend of five varietals; Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The fruit is sourced from both, Prince Edward County and Niagara Peninsula, hence its VQA Ontario designation. What brilliant wine, like raspberries served in limestone bowl, fresh and delicious. Medium bodied with great flavour complexity and silky tannins. Long length with pomegranate seed and mineral – savoury – flavoured tobacco accents. I also much enjoy Karlo Estates’ Port – style ‘Van Alstine’, made from really late harvest Merlot.

2009 ‘Dolce Ghiacciato’, Exultet Estates, Prince Edward County

Bouquet of acacia honey, caramelized pear and orange preserve. Not too heavy yet exremelly intense and flavoursome with great freshness and mineral notes shining through its finish. 15% alcohol not showing and it’s just proper considering the name, “sweet and frozen”.


Muscedere Vineyards, family owned and operated winery, hand-harvests only the finest grapes from 13-acre vineyard to produce premium wines. Wines include Bordeaux varietals, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Baco Noir. I like the 2008 Pinot and Syrah, a lot.

Viewpointe, proprietor John Fancsy is an engineer, retired from the automotive business to become winemaker of this imprsressive, granite fieldstone-built winery. The show-building winery is positioned right on the turquoise shallow water shores of the lake with its terraces looking South, with a very proper “working” barrel cellar underneath it, and the actual winemaking facility located just across the road. The estate owns about 50 acres of vineyards, planted in clay and sand, mostly under classic varieties and more, for example Auxerroise that makes a very appealing and just off dry wine, the “work horse” of house , and new hybrids belonging to a visionary research and development program (4,000 vines planted so far for this purpose) with the aim of creating unique and hardy grapes totally original to this area. The winery is a perfect spot for hosting weddings and private functions, it has a fully equipped and state-of-art kitchen and hospitality amenities. Niagara College’s satellite campus is located at this very same property with academic wine educational lectures held on weekly basis. Mr. Fancsy is also a perfectionist and no small details are missed here. And the wines prove the same. With no shortage of cash flow, some are released at five or six years. Try the 2006 ‘Ideal Pointe’ Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, 2005 ‘Balance Pointe’ Cabernet Merlot, 2002 ‘Focal Pointe’ Cabernet Franc and 2005 ‘Fine Pointe’ Pinot Noir, or the stunning value 2005 Cabernet Merlot ($12), fine wines from all point(e)s of view…

Smith & Wilson, 100 year old, 100 acre farm (40 acres under vines), by the lake on the edge of an old ridge, simply beautiful. Really good whites here, varietally accurate, clean & fresh (especially liked the Vista de Lago 2009, blend of Auxerrois & Riesling); soft & tasty reds like the Double Barrel 2007 (Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Syrah); fun Pink Cadillac (off dry sparkler) & A Currant Affair (superb black currant wine).

There are some neat wines by Aleksander Estate 2008 Pinot Noir (thight a bit, some edge to it, but good fruit purity & overall composure) 2009 Chambourcin (served slightly chilled makes it a perfect spring / summer BBQ red, food-versatile as well) & 2009 Baco Noir.

d’Angelo Vineyards Estate’s 2005 Old Vines Foch, dried cherries, herbaceous, tar, even a bit of rubber, dramatic, but I am diggin’ it…

Enjoyed CREW (Colchester Ridge Estate Winery) 2009 Gewurztraminer (clean, discreet, light & fresh), 2007 Cabernet Franc, 2007 Meritage & 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (with old world / Mediterranean flair…)

Great visit at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, surprisingly good & sincerely priced wines, liked the 2009 Pinot Gris, a steal for $12…2007 Meritage and Lady in Red, and a really interesting 2008 Rose, blend of Pinot Noir & Cabernet Franc.

Black Bear Farms of Ontario Estate Winery produces fruit wines only, some delicious, golden plum, elderberry, gooseberry & Papa’s Special Reserve red & purple raspberry etc.

And, of course, Colio. I generally like the CEV line and River Rock Red, a great value Bordeaux blend, which in fact is listed by-the-glass at Gold VQA award of excellence – winning Indian Rice Factory on Dupont.

Pelee Island favourites include the 2008 VT Pinot Gris, 2008 Pinot Noir Reserve (generic Pinot too), 2008 Vinedresser Cabernet Sauvignon & Petit Verdot blend (excellent, its price $24.95 bang on too), 2008 Vinedresser Cabernet Sauvignon; and another goodie is the Pelee Island 2009 Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc Bordeaux blend with its lime peel, wax, wool, mineral nuances and crisp acidity, in need of food, perhaps a piece of stinky, ripe & running cheese. Also tasted the not yet released 2009 Pelee Secco sparkler, off dry, fresh, served chilled just fun for next summer’s pool partying, to go with Asian amuse bouche and / or watching B-movies with…

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