David’s VINTAGES Preview- Sept 16th, 2017

Ontario Wines Headline Harvest Release
By David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Being September it is tempting to prognosticate on the quality of the 2017 vintage in Ontario. But I have often seen pre-mature forecasts get blown away by the vagaries of an Ontario autumn. It has been a slower, wetter and cooler growing season, although drier and sunnier in the last two critical weeks. We now however have the possible remnants of a hurricane or two ploughing our way, and a deluge at the critical moment of ripening would be a real problem. It has happened before.

The grape growers and wineries are all set by the way. This week they reached their annual agreement on how much wineries will pay growers for various grape varieties – but a short and rather vacuous press release on the matter from the Grape Growers of Ontario did not mention any specific prices and whether they are up, down or the same as last year. They did say that agreement provides the industry with “certainty”, which is the whole idea of price fixing. But Mother Nature will dictate how many grapes are harvested and their quality, and with wine generating 4.4 billion dollar impact to the Ontario economy, there is a lot riding on her shoulders.

And that impact will only grow. I was recently in the large Queens Quay Loblaw’s supermarket right beside LCBO HQ on Toronto’s downtown waterfront. And I wandered into an Ontario wine section which had not previously existed. And lo and behold it was not just selling the wines of one Ontario winery (as supermarket ‘kiosks’ have historically done). It was selling wines from several wineries. And there were no imported wines to be seen.


Monasterio De Las Viñas Gran Reserva 2010

When the Ontario government began to roll out wine sales in supermarkets almost a year ago, the plan to have half the licensed supermarkets sell only Ontario wine seemed to fly under the radar. As did the requirement that private Ontario wine stores and kiosks that had been selling only brands from one winery, would now have to stock wines of VQA competitors.

Both these are very good ideas in my opinion, and the number of outlets will grow year by year. Some 400 outlets are called for in the next five years, but eventually, if not sooner, this could evolve to a wide open market, and we will see more and more Ontario wine readily and easily available.

But let’s stop wandering in the starry-eyed future and look at what’s best, and most interesting, on the September 16 release, which features Ontario wine.

The releases (and in some cases re-releases) include 18 wines that show the diversity of Ontario grapes and sub-regions. It also showcases a number of different wineries – so there are many options to explore. Sara, Michael and I put forward our best buys below, with John returning from summer travels to present the rest of the release in a longer report next week.

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES Sept 16th

Whites and Sparklers

2027 Cellars 2013 Queenston Road Vineyard Blanc De Blancs, St. David’s Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This joins a growing core of very fine traditional method chardonnay-based Blanc de Blancs now being made in Ontario. It has a pleasant nose of dried apple/pear and lemony fruit, as well as some brioche and toasty complexity. It is a mid-weight, fresh, rounded and balanced. Solid and very good value.…

Creekside 2015 Marianne Hill Riesling, Marianne Hill Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($20.90)
David Lawrason – Maturing riesling vines on the Beamsville Bench continue to impress. This single vineyard riesling has a very ripe nose with considerable petrol (from the hot 2015 growing season) pear and pineapple fruit. It is mid-weight, off-dry, rather silky on the palate with good underlying lemony acidity.
Michael Godel – Juicy never had it so good, so right and a lime cordial’s vital tang is also the sweet thing. Marianne is a really cool and spirited riesling from some really talented, spiritual and lyric promising winemakers, yet another moment of clarity on their Niagara journey to enlightenment.

2027 Cellars Queenston Road Vineyard Blanc De Blanc 2013Creekside Marianne Hill Riesling 2015Closson Chase K.J. Watson Vineyard Pinot Gris 2016

Closson Chase 2016 K.J. Watson Vineyard Pinot Gris, Four Mile Creek, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is one of the finest pinot gris I have ever had from Ontario, very much in an Alsatian style. The winery of course is in Prince Edward County but the fruit is from mature vines in the Watson Vineyard. his has a very typical, ripe pinot gris nose of pear, waxy, honey and bread. It is medium-full bodied, smooth, rich and nicely textured with very good fruit intensity. The acidity is balanced and there is a hint of spritz.
Sara d’Amato – A pinot gris that the whole WineAlign team can get behind, this dry and racy wine delivers an almost electric tang to the palate balanced by fleshy weight and an appealing degree of viscosity. The wild aromatic character was preserved by a very cool, gentle and draw out fermentation of hand-picked and hand-sorted grapes at their peak of ripeness.

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2014, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($26.95)
Michael Godel – Pretty wine, of a slight demure, pleasant and creamy nose. What speaks clearly now is the full palate, marked by some green apple but less bite. Really full and persistent. Classic Ontario chardonnay and the sort (of a proven track record) that will age well into the next decade.

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2014G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay 2016

G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay 2016, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario ($17.95)
Michael Godel – The focus of a single-vineyard, the warmth of a fine vintage and the richesse of the barrel are all to blame for the Silver Line’s step in a fortuitous direction. The heat followed the freeze (with less than obvious transitions in between) and it’s almost as if chardonnay like this needed to stand up and be counted in 2016. G. Marquis makes it happen, with tannic, extracted and juicy tart character atop green apple fruit. This carries real spice, smoke and length.

Reds and a Rosé

Thirty Bench 2015 Winemaker’s Blend Double Noir Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This blends gamay and pinot noir, a style done in southern Burgundy for years in an appellation wine called Passetoutgrains. This is a simple, pleasant, light and well balanced red that captures strawberry/cherry fruit, vague florals, soft earthy and herbal notes. Oak is at a minimum. A style Ontario can do well, and should do more.
Michael Godel – The nomenclature is just so perfectly chosen and as you will find, this is a seamless joint between pinot and gamay noir. Double Noir does the passe tout grains oeuvre from Ontario in combining pinot with gamay and I’ve long ago agreed these two make anything but strange bedfellows. Firm upon firm and bright upon bright, the two grapes work seamlessly in Emma Garner’s new and idealistic red. Pass the two grapes over, SVP.
Sara d’Amato – A lovely take on the Burgundian ‘passe-tout-grain’ blending of gamay and pinot noir resulting in a vibrant, peppery and very drinkable wine with a lightness befitting of aperitif hour. A highly complimentary red that is sure to charm a wide audience.

Thirty Bench Winemaker's Blend Double Noir 2015Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2015

Malivoire 2015 Courtney Gamay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($27.95)
David Lawrason -Again from a single vineyard on the Beamsville Bench, this is one of the most ripe, almost voluptuous gamays yet produced by this  gamay specialist. It has a very ripe nose of cherry/strawberry fruit with some vanillin and peppery spice. It is light to mid-weight, almost silky smooth, with fine tannin and acidity. A textural treat.

Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2010, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario ($17.10)

Michael Godel – At seven years of age the remarkable is touched because this LENS cabernet franc is still on the waxing side of life, not because it’s still improving but in the varietal-locale continuum, hanging on and in is far from a waning state of being. The dusty currants, cranapples and pomegranate notations are still juicy and yet beneficially bitter. Balsamic and figgy fruit are gaining but soy meets peppery tar is still a skip and a jump away. This proprietor has shocked with some of their older reds and this falls into that same category. All that said I would have preferred a fresh Viewpointe franc in its earlier youth but offer plenty of credit to what it is now due.

Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2010Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2016

Malivoire 2016 Vivant Rosé, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Among the trio of rosés produced by Malivoire, this is perhaps the most Provençal in style with the palest of pink colour, a dry, crisp palate and complex but understated flavours. This very à la mode style re-released next week may prove one of the few rosés left on the shelves under $20 this fall.

That’s a wrap as they say in showbiz. If you are not out and about at TIFF this weekend, consider a trip to wine country. It is a rather magical time of year to be among the vines.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Niagara Grape & Wine Festival