Thursday, July 04, 2013

Ontario Rieslings 2013: 13 Tasted of 13

Much has been said about Riesling being a signature white grape for the Niagara wine region consequently I've selected a baker's dozen available from our local LCBO to explore possible variations in terroir and style of Rieslings from a dozen Niagara wineries.

There were only two criteria for selecting wines for this blog entry:
  • Price <$25 give or take
  • VQA level of a Bench or sub-appellation

Other than the budgetary consideration I don't believe in funding even part of a luxuriant lifestyle of the 'rich & famous'. I look for value and the higher the bottle price the more stringent is my scrutiny. (Other discussions: Ref 1, Ref 2 ) And secondly... I have as focus the theory that grapes of a type from one vineyard will have a different character, especially flavour, than those from another vineyard and those of one Bench to that of another. Retaining this difference should be a key factor in the style and process used by the respective winemaker.

The corollary is that blending across Benches, as in 'VQA Niagara Peninsula' and 'VQA Ontario', in my view, loses this emphasis on "Somewhereness" not that these two VQA levels don't or won't differ from other regions in Ontario and in Canada. 

IRF International Riesling Foundation
A previous blog entry, Niagara Appellations, describes in more detail the viticultural areas of the Niagara Peninsula. Essentially there are 2 super-appellations (Niagara Escarpment and Niagara-on-the-Lake) containing 7 (Short Hills Bench, Twenty Mile Bench, Beamsville Bench and Niagara River, Niagara Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek, St. David's Bench respectively) sub-appellations and there are 3 additional sub-appellations (Creek Shores, Lincoln Lakeshore and Vinemount Ridge).

With the exception of Niagara Lakeshore and St. David's Bench each area is represented in The Lineup below. For any of the ten sub-appellations to be named on the front label 100% of the grapes must come from that area.

Cheers, Ww


An aside: If you have used the LCBO search app on their website you may find it somewhat awkward and limited. For example: You'd think a major proponent of VQA accreditation would allow a search of their inventory for VQA levels, ie. VQA Niagara River, VQA St David's etc. Naaddaa! VQA levels aren't part of a Canadian wine on file.  Also every time a wine or number is searched it's erased and you have to start from scratch for your next search. Do that 100 times a week and it's time consuming. Also to find inventory in your area(s) you have to select the areas, 1 by 1, each time... no setting up personal settings. etc.


  • Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Riesling 2012 VQA Vinemount Ridge, 90Cellar  --  V, Vineland, Ontario, #198853  $23.95  
  • Greenlane Estate 'Old Vines' Riesling 2010 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, 90-1  --  V, Beamsville, Ontario, #283432 $29.95
  • Malivoire Riesling 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment,  89-2  --  V, Beamsville, Ontario, #277483 $15.95(now $13.95) 
  • Henry of Pelham Family Estate Riesling 2010 VQA Short Hills Bench, 89-2  --  V, St. Catharines, Ontario, #557165 $15.95 
  • 13th Street Winery 'June's Vineyard' Riesling 2011 VQA Creek Shores, 89-1  --  G,  St. Catharines, Ontario, #147512 $19.95
  • Earth & Sky Riesling 2011 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake,  87-1  --  G, NotL, Ontario,  #343350 $14.95 
  • Chateau des Charmes 'Old Vines' Riesling 2010 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake,  87-1  --  V,  NotL, Ontario, #277228  $16.95 
  • Thirty Bench Riesling 2012 VQA Beamsville Bench, 87  --  V, Beamsville, Ontario, #024133 $18.95
  • Cave Spring Estate Bottled Riesling 2011 VQA Beamsville Bench, 86  --  V, Jordan, Ontario, #286377 $17.95  
  • Cattail Creek Family Estate Winery Riesling 2012 VQA Four Mile Creek, 85  --  G,  NotL, Ontario, #241547 $14.95 
  • Reif Estate Winery Riesling 2010 VQA Niagara River, 83  --  G, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, #111799 $11.95
  • Vineland Estates Winery Dry Riesling 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 83 --  G, Vineland, Ontario, #167551 $13.95 
  • Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 82  --  V, Jordan, Ontario, #578625  $19.95 
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated)


CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES  'OLD VINES' RIESLING 2010 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, NOTL, Ontario, 12.5% D 8g/L, #277228   $16.95  (Tasted July 18, 2013) 

Released by Vintages on March 30, 2013. Rated 3.5 of 5 by Michael Pinkus (August 15, 2012).  My notes:  A nose with a difference, somewhat green apple with a hint of ground nutmeg and the colour is a delicate yellow. A thin film leaves a lacy rim dropping a few fast tears - the first sip is bright on the tongue drying the palate while adding a flavour of mild lemon with a hint of tangerine. Ends with a faint lemon/lime and mild chalk. Have with fish/crab cakes or grilled basil and tomato bruschetta. Best served 15oC+.  87

GREENLANE ESTATE  'OLD VINES' RIESLING 2010 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Beamsville, Ontario, 10.4%  M  24g/L,  #283432  $29.95  (Tasted July 18, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 29, 2012 and rated 91 by Beppi Crosariol  (August 17, 2011).  My notes:  A slight pear and beeswax aroma from a green tinted polished delicate yellow. The film sticks then runs long slow legs. The first sip lays down a spicy acid with some sweet roundness that refreshes the palate and continues into a long finish ending with a dry mineral aspect, like licking wet granite. A patio sipper for a hot and humid Ontario summer or to pair with crab or lobster pieces. Cellaring may bring forward more minerality but drinking well now. 90

MALIVOIRE RIESLING 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Beamsville, Ontario, 10.5%  D  18g/L, #277483  $13.95 (was $15.95)  (Tasted August 2, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 16, 2013.  My notes: Not present on the Malivoire website and price was reduced by the LCBO after purchase. The strength of the nose fades quickly on pouring although still retaining a noticeable apricot/lime blend with a mineral edge - a soft floral comes with some warmth (15oC). The colour is a natural yellow blond, sparkling bright and a swirl leaves a fragmenting rim shedding slow tears. Clean with an immediate Escarpment (chalk) dryness then a light lemon/lime touches the palate fading slowly to a dry mineral and lime ending. Has a moderate fullness and depth for a crowd or have with a grilled cod or soul fillet topping a mound of vegetable rice.  A drink now. 89

TAWSE  QUARRY ROAD VINEYARD RIESLING 2012 VQA Vinemount Ridge, Vineland, Ontario, 10.0%  D  20g/L, #198853   $23.95  (Tasted July 23, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 31, 2012 and rated 92 by John Szabo, MS  (August 2012)  My notes: A polished, light yellow colour and a scent that needs time to develop as the glass goes off chill, then a touch of beeswax and lemon. Chalk dry from the start leading into an intense lemon tartness and flavour. A light film leaves a fragmenting rim rapidly disintegrating into nodules on the glass. Ends with a long period of chalky lemon refreshing as a sipper - a tooth cleaner. Pair with a BLT, hard cheeses or grilled tilapia on a bed of Basmati rice. Still quite young - several years cellaring may evolve a rounder texture while retaining its light-bodied appeal.  90Cellar

CAVE SPRING ESTATE BOTTLED RIESLING 2011  VQA Beamsville Bench, Jordan, Ontario, 11.5% D 14g/L, #286377  $17.95  (Tasted July 16, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 18, 2013. My notes:  A faint scent of apples and a faded grapefruit colour followed by a soft acid and grapefruit flavour has appeal as a sipper by itself or with a tray of cheeses. Wonderfully rich when quaffed. The finish would be short except for a lasting acid and suspicion of sweet apple. Went well with steamed Nova Scotia lobsters flown in fresh with a returning traveller. A drink now.  86

CATTAIL CREEK FAMILY ESTATE WINERY RIESLING 2012 VQA Four Mile Creek,  Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 11.5%  D  17g/L, #241547  $14.95  (Tasted July 8, 2013)  CS

A General listing. My notes:  A polished pale yellow with a thin film that runs a few fast legs and a mild aroma of limestone are the first senses. Then a sip adds a light citrus tang, a smooth seam and slight chalk edge ending soft on the palate. Attractive as a social sipper for its mid palate burst of flavour, a tactful acid and sweetness. Have with lightly seasoned grilled or poached white fish or shellfish. A drink now. 85

EARTH & SKY 2011 RIESLING VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, NotL, Ontario, 12.5%  D 12.8g/L,  #343350  $14.95  (Tasted August 1, 2013)  CS

A General listing produced by Chateau Des Charmes owned by the Bosc family.  My notes: A well balanced social mixer with a delicate sliced dried apricot nose. The colour is a yellow blond and lays a thin film that runs long legs from a lacy rim on the initial swirl. The first sip brings a smooth texture and appealing apricot flavour with refreshing acid and a slight spice - best at 14-15oC.  Save a few for social happenings as a starter or as a flexible complement to a selection of seafood, rice dishes or chicken casserole. I don't see this cellaring long but a drink now to a year. 87

REIF ESTATE WINERY RIESLING 2010 VQA Niagara River, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, 12.0%  D  13g/L, #111799   $11.95  (Tasted July 24, 2013)  CS

A General listing produced by the Reif Winery.  My notes:  Serve well chilled. A mid yellow colour with an aroma of lemon and slight vanilla on opening dissipating as the wine airs leaving mainly a softer scent.  A firm film leaves a continuous rim that slowly accumulates and sheds slow tears. There's an appealing burst of tart lemon seed flavour with a bite and dryness that lasts before ending with a mild crushed lemon seed ending. A hint of sweet, no more. Try pairing with Asian foods: sweet and sour chicken, pork fried rice with soy or lobster claws. Did not pair well with grilled chicken thighs in a yellow plum sauce. A drink now. 83

FLAT ROCK CELLARS NADJA'S VINEYARD RIESLING 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Jordan, Ontario, 11.0% D 14g/L, #578625  $19.95  (Tasted July 13, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on August 4, 2012. My notes:  A pale blond with a lime and green apple aroma suggests this to be a refreshing sipper. The film is thin quickly draining a fragmenting rim through long fast legs. The first sip has an acidic bite that quickly begs a prosciutto wrapped asparagus spear or plate of stuffed mushrooms. Not a sipper by itself. Flavours fade quickly leaving a slight oil on the lips and a chalk dry finish. Have with fresh oysters, grilled halibut or cod on a bed of Basmati sprinkled with soy or with lobster. A drink now. 82

VINELAND ESTATES WINERY DRY RIESLING 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Vineland, Ontario, 10.0% XD  ?g/L, #167551  $13.95  (Tasted July 29, 2013)  CS

A General listing.  My notes: A light yellow with a green hue and a nose of lemon and a background spice aroma - perhaps anise. The film, with a swirl, is thin leaving a lacy rim and quickly draining to lots of small globules on the glass. The first sip shows the low alcohol, has a drying texture with low fruit and teeth cleaning acid. Could be a sipper with a buffet table of hard cheeses and stuffed mushrooms, etc. - if a social function I'd keep a backup. Pair with fresh oysters or an Asian dim sum. A commercial drink now. I've changed LCBO's M to XD.  83

THIRTY BENCH RIESLING 2012 VQA Beamsville Bench, Beamsville, Ontario, 10.6%  M 23g/L, #024133  $18.95  (Tasted July 29, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 18, 2013 and an Andrew Peller Limited wine.  My notes: A touch of lemon and soft spice on the nose with a thin film sticking then slowly fragmenting on the glass - a light blond colour. A touch of lemon and young grapefruit filtered of any sediment or pulp - a very clean, biting first sip. Retains a bright fruitiness initially then slowly fades to a mildly unctuous, chalk dry ending. Begs a buffet assortment of bacon bits and tomato bruschetta, pigs-in-a-blanket, fresh oysters or to be paired with grilled tilapia on a bed of mushroom risotto. For cellaring, still young, I'd try a year at a time. A drink now.  87

13TH STREET WINERY  'JUNE'S VINEYARD' RIESLING 2011 VQA Creek Shores,  St. Catharines, Ontario, 12.0%  D  16g/L, #147512  $19.95  (Tasted July 8, 2013)  CS

A General listing. My notes:  I have to stop admiring the bouquet so I can think how to describe it... it's floral with a touch of tropical fruit. A pale yellow and a thin film is the visual look then a sip puts a chalk layer in the roof of the mouth and tongue that comes before and after a burst of delicate keylime taste, just noticeably off dry. A tang and chalk continue for a long finish. Have with anything Asian or sip as a chilled cooler on a summer day. Cellaring? 89

HENRY OF PELHAM FAMILY ESTATE RIESLING 2010 VQA Short Hills Bench, St Catharines, Ontario, 11.0%  M  21g/L,  #557165  $15.95  (Tasted July 30, 2013) 

A Vintages release on June 22, 2013.  My notes:I swear there was a whiff of tangerine on opening that airs quickly leaving a just perceptible blend of lemon and apple on the nose. A light yellow colour and a thin film with a lacy rim that drains quickly leaving the glass bare. A silky first sip has a mild tang that's nicely balanced with Gala apple that includes a matching sweet note. A flexible white to have with Thai dishes with/without some heat, Asian with soft spices or coconut shrimp and Tempura vegetables. Keep a few on hand for that spontaneous party with Home Delivered Chinese or Japanese fare. Should be able to cellar for several years. 89

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