Niagara 2005 Whites, Cellar Reds, Wine in the Cour

Niagara 2005 Whites, Cellar Reds, Wine in the Cour

The great appeal of this blog is writing in real time and being able to recommend wines before they disappear. Or wines of which only tiny amounts were made. The 25-winery New Vintage Niagara event at the St. Catharines’ Golf and Country Club on Saturday opened the window onto a handful of fine new releases that won’t make it much past the winery gate—a situation more acute this season with the 2005s being in short supply. About 50% of Niagara’s 2005 crop was wiped out by winter frosts, but what remained ripened to record levels during a summer in which the region enjoyed 30 days of temperatures above 30 degrees.

I focused on early release (non-oaked) 2005 whites that will quench through the summer months. Most have more body, alcohol (some burn the finish) and riper fruit than previous vintages, yet still seem to harbour good acidity. The rieslings of ’05 were prevalent and many showed extra fruit and flesh, although, at this early stage, several showed fruit-masking wet wool or matchstick aromas from sulphur applied at bottling (no rush to drink them). Some benchmark rieslings are solid, including Vineland Estates 2005 Dry **** ($10.95, LCBO) and Konzelmann 2005 Riesling ***1/2 ($10.95, LCBO). Of the harder to get examples, Fielding 2005 Riesling Semi-Dry ***1/2 ($16.95 winery only) is very zesty yet not austere with apple, peach, lemon flavours. Stoney Ridge 2005 Riesling Reserve ***1/2 ($16.95, winery) shows similar zest with surprisingly good fruit depth. The discovery for me was Flat Rock 2005 Twisted **** ($18.95 Vintages June 10/winery) a creative, well-balanced, very New Zealand-like screw-capped blend of 50% riesling, 35% gewurz and 10% chardonnay.

Other varieties shone as well. Coyote’s Run 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay **** ($15.00 winery only) has cool green apple, mineral, fresh bread nose, and then powers up on the palate—creamy, rich and warm. EastDell 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay *** ($11.95 LCBO) is good as well if a bit leaner. There are very limited quantities of a delightful, new Jackson-Triggs 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ***1/2 ($13.95 winery only), a steal in zesty, herbal, surprisingly concentrated sauvignon based on fruit from the Delaine Vineyard. Vineland 2005 Pinot Blanc ***1/2 ($14.95 winery only) is aromatically subdued but ripe with a lovely creamy texture and surprising length. And finally, the limited production of Fielding 2005 Gewurztraminer***1/2 ($16.00 winery only) catches exact gewurz lychee, grapefruit and rosewater flavours delivered in a juicy, barely sweet, nicely balanced style.

All in all, four summer whites worth the drive to wine country. New Vintage Niagara Festival events (see run through this week and weekend at participating wineries, with wine and cheese seminars, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada Winemaker Dinner at Jackson-Triggs on June 17.

Despite Vintages’ focus on summer rosés on Saturday’s release, let’s not overlook good, cellar-worthy reds when they appear. Here are three mid- to higher-priced reds I’d stash short term for peak drinking before the end of the decade. Cave Spring 2002 Cabernet Merlot Reserve, Niagara **** ($29.95, Vintages June 10) remains one of the best-balanced, poised and complex Bordeaux-blend reds yet produced in Niagara. Gerard Bertrand’s Chateau de Hospitalet 2003 La Reserve ****1/2, Coteaux du Languedoc, ($18.95, Vintages June 10) earns an extra half-star for value, a powerhouse blend of syrah, grenache and uplifting mourvedre with rustic, very complex caper, coffee, leather and dark cherry reminiscent of Hermitage. Casa Emma 2001 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany **** ($34.95, Vintages June 10) is just hitting stride with classic, well integrated cedar, leather, olive and currant/cherry fruit set in a solid yet vibrant frame.

Next Saturday afternoon is the annual Wine in the Courtyard, hosted by the Wine Establishment at Berkeley Castle (Berkeley & Esplanade). Eight chefs and eight wine suppliers team up with musicians and auctioneers to raise funds for AboutFace. The Wine Establishment offers discounts on many of its wine accessory products. Tickets can be purchased by calling 416-597-2229 ext. 21.