Monday, May 17, 2010

May 2010 - 1st Niagara Trip: 7 Tasted of 7

Actually the trip was on sunny Friday, April 30th but what difference does a day make? Piqued (love that word) by Tweets from @rickwine (Rick VanSickle, contributor to the St. Catherines Tribune and active Tweep) described in 140 characters or less a few wines released by two new ’virtual’ wineries - wineries without a winery but camping at an established winery. In this case each of the winemakers is real. Each is passionate about capturing the terroir of single vineyards or, in the case of blending, on their, not a panel’s, sense of how each grape should contribute to the result having apprenticed through employment at a Niagara winery or being native to the area acquiring grape juice in their veins and often journeying to the New World for experience. Their virtual wineries differ from another approach found in Niagara, that of labelling bottles fermented at an existing winery for a business not on site, even not in Ontario. (click on image for larger view)
Nyarai Cellars with winemaker Steve Byfield is currently situated at Calamus Estate Winery. 20-27 Cellars with winemaker Kevin Panagapka is at Featherstone Estate. On the way to these two wineries I first stopped at Rosewood Estates to taste a few of their current releases.
An aside item… if you’re in the Beamsville area on June 5th & 6th the ’Graze the Bench’ event features 7-7-7, ie. 7 wineries, 7 chefs and 7 bands. A Passport for this event is available at any of the 7 wineries.

Seven wines came back for a more leisurely tasting. When tasted wines will be sequenced by  rating, reds then whites:  Cheers, Ww

  • Nyarai Cellars Syrah 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  88-1  --  O, Vineland, Ontario, #Winery  $20.20
  • 20-27 Cellars ‘Fox Croft Vineyard' Riesling 2009 VQA Twenty Mile Bench,  93-2  --  O, Vineland, Ontario, #Winery $25.15
  • Rosewood Estates ‘Renaceau Vineyard’ Chardonnay Reserve 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench,  92-2  --  O, Beamsville, Canada, #Winery $25.15 
  • Nyarai Cellars Chardonnay 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 90-2  --  O, Vineland, Ontario, #Winery  $16.20 
  • Featherstone Estate ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  90-2  --  O, Vineland, Ontario, #Winery $17.15 
  • 20-27 Cellars ‘Featherstone Vineyard’ Riesling 2009 VQA Twenty Mile Bench,  86  --  O, Vineland, Ontario, #Winery  $25.15
  • Featherstone Estate Winery 'Canadian Oak' Chardonnay 2008 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 79  --  O, Vineland, Ontario, #Winery $22.15
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)


NYARAI CELLARS SYRAH 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario,  (Map It!) 12.5% D, #Winery  $20.20  (Tasted May 13, 2010)

The website says "… The majority of the fruit was sourced from the Lincoln Lakeshore [sub]appellation with light augmentation from the Niagara River [sub]appellation region. Garnet in appearance, this wine is fairly austere with white and green pepper notes, mocha and freshly crushed red current aromas. Balanced acidity, this is the perfect food pairing wine that sings with blackberry and cocoa nuances with a dusty undertone of subtle earthly tannins all culminating in a pleasant lingering finish." My notes: A mid ruby gemstone colour, a thin film with fast tears and a delicate red currant scent makes an interesting presentation in the glass. The first sip is light-bodied, with bright flavours of berry tinged red currant, a soft texture, a mineral-berry start to the finish and mainly mineral at the end. Not Australian… more Rhone… but mostly Niagara: terroir and process. A well made light red to be paired with roast chicken thighs, rabbit, a pork casserole, grilled salmon or ham steak. Cellar up to four years.  88  

20-27 CELLARS 'FEATHERSTONE VINEYARD' RIESLING 2009 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Vineland, Ontario, (Map It!) 11.0% D, #Winery  $25.15  (Tasted May 9, 2010)
The website says of the 2008 vintage "Sourced from the 30-year-old ‘Featherstone Vineyard’ in the Twenty Mile Bench [sub]appellation this wine shows underlying minerality, white peach, with lavender overtones and lively acidity. The grapes were hand harvested and whole bunch pressed, a pure expression of Niagara Riesling made in a classic style. One of the oldest Riesling vineyards (Weise clone vines were planted in 1978) on the Niagara Escarpment this wine has a lengthy aging potential. Enjoy over the next 5 to 10 years."  My notes: A suspicion of green adds to the crystal clear colour and a hint of wild flowers and honey brings life to the nose. A crab apple tartness shocks the buds awake with the first sip of chalk dry, light granny smith apple flavours. Interesting as a sipper but too acerbic for me by itself. The finish softens quickly leaving the ’shock and awe’ behind with a delicately flavoured dry finish.  Have with fresh oysters or a cold shrimp - or with a creamy chicken pasta plate, halibut and chips or squid rings. Needs several years to be ready - cellar potential adds points.  86 (Cellar)

20-27 CELLARS 'FOX CROFT VINEYARD' RIESLING 2009 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Vineland, Ontario, (Map It!) 11.0% D, #Winery $25.15  (Tasted May 18, 2010)

No description available as yet on the website. My notes:  Located on the sloping grade of the Niagara Escarpment the vineyards Kevin Pagnagapka has contracted carry the limestone and clay terroir through to his wines. Wild floral and rosebud scents burst on first pouring and last through a purposely slow sniffing - delectable. A faint green tint, well polished, swirling a thin film with a few slow tears, an initial penetrating tang then a balance of natural sweetness and acid to refresh the palate during the first sip - an ‘amuse bouche‘. It‘s a twist of brightness and fruit with a lip-smacking finish ending with chalky dryness. Enjoyable as a sipper for any event this should also pair with anything fishy, creamy, grilled, roasted or fried. A drink now or cellar in the short term. 93   

NYARAI CELLARS CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario,  (Map It!) 13.0% D, #Winery  $16.20  (Tasted May 23, 2010)

The website says "The only white wine from Nyarai Cellars produced from this great vintage[2007]. Maturated in French oak barrels for 12 months, fruit exclusively selected from two of the finest sites in Niagara-On-The-Lake. Primary fermentation conducted in stainless steel tank to capture defined fruit character and retain acidity. With an inviting nose of sweet oak and ripe yellow tropical fruit notes, this wine is well versed with green apple peel, vanilla and a hint of toffee accompanied with crisp acidity. A considerate candidate for pleasurable enjoyment with smoked Salmon, grilled Chicken or creamy pasta dishes." My notes:Crystal clear and a pale golden in the glass, given a few minutes to breathe and lose the chill there’s a faint scent of caramel and apple. A light film with fast tears gives an impression of delicate elegance. The flavours follow the nose adding a smooth texture and tart seam for a medium-bodied, lightly oaked chardonnay. Enjoyable as a sipper, better paired with seafood or chicken breast yes, smoked salmon may be a stretch. Short term cellaring may bring out some butterscotch. 90

ROSEWOOD ESTATES ’RENACEAU VINEYARD’ CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Beamsville, Ontario, (Map It!) 14.0% D, #Winery $25.20 (Tasted May 18, 2010)

Described by the Winery as “Our 3 barrels were aged sur lie in premium French oak barrels for 10 months. The malolactic fermentation was stopped half-way which allows the wine to maintain the clean citrus characteristics of the Renaceau vineyard. Developing notes of caramel, butterscotch and vanilla framed by just enough acidity makes this wine a perfect pairing to veal, pork tenderloin and pasta dishes with cream sauce. Drink now or cellar for 5 years.” My notes: I tasted this chardonnay during a trip to Niagara in June 2009 then more leisurely at home.  I found the texture and flavours elegantly suited for sipping or dining. Six months in the cellar has softened the ’just detectable’ French oak in the nose leaving a soft melon and citrus. Beautifully balanced acid carries delicate flavours of butterscotch, citrus and vanilla maintaining the ‘Renaceau’ character. The oak treatment comes forward during a long, fully rounded finish. An excellent sipper that would pair nicely with scallops, grilled with bacon or with a herbed risotto, not too seasoned. Will likely mature nicely up to four years.  92
FEATHERSTONE ESTATE WINERY 'BLACK SHEEP' RIESLING 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, (Map It!) #'Winery $17.15  (Tasted May 7, 2010)
The website says "Shows ripe apple and peach, with a slate quality from the limestone soils. Mid-weight and off-dry with a great acid core and light body… Quintessential Riesling with tang and precision".  My notes: The 2007 vintage, a Twenty Mile Bench VQA, was tasted in August 2008 and rated 84. The 2009 is crystal clear in the glass with just a tinge of blond, an aroma of delicate floral that dissipates quickly then returns. The thin film recedes evenly - a light to medium-bodied sipper with the full tartness of a lime and green apple flavours. The limestone comes out in a refreshing lip smacking finish. Perfect with  fresh oysters, a shrimp plate or have with whitefish dishes or a variety of tapas. Cellaring for several years should quell some tartness returning texture and depth in the bargain. Well made, well balanced and well worth it.  90
FEATHERSTONE ESTATE (View It!) WINERY 'CANADIAN OAK' CHARDONNAY 2008 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Vineland, Ontario, (Map It!) 12.5% D, #Winery $22.15 (Tasted May 27, 2010)
The website says "This is our ‘feral’ Chardonnay - fermented by wild, local indigenous yeast instead of being inoculated with a commercial strain of yeast. The grapes were hand-picked and sorted and then fermentation took place in oak barrels that are made from oak trees that grew along the Grand River in Brantford, Ontario. The result is a rich and buttery wine that is truly ‘local’ in every sense of the word and represents the best of the region and the vintage."  My notes: This is a pale gold in the glass with a nose that given time to develop doesn’t. A swirl shows a thin film with fast legs confirming a lightish medium-body first sip - tangy, delicate nectarine, almond, and apple dumpling mixture unique for a chardonnay. The finish remains delicate with  a shallow roundness and an ending of stone fruit - a tartness with each swallow the only point of interest. Not a solitary sipper. Have with saltines or wheat crackers or pair with mild fish dishes or a clear chicken broth - was passable with grilled steelhead salmon. A drink now.  79

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