Wine of the WeekFielding Estate 2006 Chardonnay Musqué ($15.95, Vintages 37879, score 88 points*)Fielding has gained quite a reputation for its zesty, fragrant, floral aromatic whites. From a particularly fragrant clone of chardonnay, this is intentionally off-dry, yet very good lime-like acidity works to balance it out. Very lifted lavender, lime, tangerine and green apple and melon nose, with flavours staying focused through a very long finish. Chill it down a bit and enjoy on the deck this summer.
Recent surgery has kept me off the tasting/event circuit and will do so through much of April. But all is well and I continue to taste at home—a fine way to go. The last wine outing prior to my forced R&R was a visit to two wineries on Locust Lane on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench. One called Hidden Bench will be taking the world by storm when it opens in June. I have tasted the full range of riesling, chardonnays, pinots and white and red “meritage’ blends, and will review them when they become available in staggered releases (depending on style) beginning in June, continuing in the fall and into next spring. For now, let me only tease that Hidden Bench will not be hidden for long, and it joins wineries like Le Clos Jordanne, Tawse and Stratus in pushing Niagara’s quality and price bars to new heights. Watch my June column in Toronto Life for first reviews.
Meanwhile up the short and winding road, Fielding Estate Winery has endured a couple of recent bumps—a short crop plus a change of winemakers in 2005—to emerge with a fine selection of new 2006 whites and 2005 reds. The winery was founded by Ken and Marge Fielding, Toronto and Haliburton residents I met years ago when they attended a wine course I taught in Toronto. Fielding wines lept out of the gate with five medals from the 2002 and 2003 vintages at the Ontario Wine Awards, under the hand of talented winemaker Andrejz Lepinski who had similarly launched Legends Estate a couple of years prior. Last summer he was replaced by Ray Cornell, an accomplished Niagara winemaker who worked several vintages at Hernder. I first met Ray in the late ’80s at the now defunct Willowbank—where he made a memorable 1988 riesling, a grape he continued to master at Hernder. His first Fielding 2006 whites—including our wine of the week—are very fragrant, zesty and pure expressions of their varietal. And the 2005 reds emerging in the weeks ahead are similarly solid, with a liveliness that runs throughout the range.
Fielding is a rewarding winery visit—the kind of place that immediately says Ontario has arrived as a wine destination. Set against a forest backdrop high on the Bench it boasts a great vista: 20 acres of vineyard and a view of Lake Ontario. (The Fieldings own another 40 acres on the Lakeshore). The modern, tasteful building combines smart upscale retail within a cottage country lodge ambiance. The tasting room offers a full range of varietal wines, glassware and corkscrews, with an amiable, enthusiastic staff managed by daughter-in-law Heidi Fielding. Her husband, Curtis Fielding, a former pro stock car racer, manages the entire winery operation. But it is really the personality and professionalism, warmth and class, of Marg and Ken Fielding—who helped established Subway as the world’s largest fast food sandwich chain—that pervades everything this winery does.
Last Saturday, Vintages stores released the Wine of the Week above, plus a couple of weaker reds from the lighter 2004 vintage. Here are many of Fielding’s current releases. Others awaiting release include 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, 2006 Fume Blanc, and 2005 Syrah. For directions to the winery and on-line ordering go to www.fieldingwines.com
Fielding 2006 Gewurztraminer Reserve ($22, winery April 15, 89 pts) is quite powerful, creamy yet elegant gewürztraminer with loads of spice, lychee, grapefruit and licorice. One of Niagara’s best with this difficult grape.
Fielding 2006 Gewurztraminer ($16, winery, 87 pts) took top Gewürz at the 2007 Cuvée Wine Awards with the lifted, classic musk perfume, lime and lychee aromas of this aromatic grape. An off-dry wine braced by terrific, zesty acidity. Stocks may be limited after its gold medal win.
Fielding 2006 Pinot Gris ($18, winery, April 15, 86 pts) is a quite flamboyant, ripe pinot gris with ripe peachy fruit and a nicely creamy texture bolstered by fresh acidity.
Fielding 2005 Cabernet Franc ($18, winery, 87 pts) needs a couple of years in the cellar to subdue some brittle tannin. Shows nicely ripe blackberry, mocha and toasty flavours in a tight, well proportioned, light to mid-weight frame.
Fielding 2005 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($28, winery, April 15, 89 pts) is a mid-weight, fleshy, stylish red with a very harmonious nose of perfectly ripened blackberry fruit embellished with oak-driven mocha and typical cab franc tobacco.
Fielding 2005 Pinot Noir ($20, winery, 86 pts) is a well-priced, lighter pinot with evolved colour and lifted floral, cranberry-sour cherry fruit with spicy oak. Initially smooth, with piquant, slightly tart acidity. Best now to 2009. Better than the oddly soapy 2004 released at Vintages on Saturday.
Fielding 2004 Meritage Reserve ($40, winery, 88 pts) is a bit pricy for this lighter vintage but shows very fragrant, intense aromas of raspberry-currant fruit, herbs, toast and dark chocolate. Mid-weight, slim, fragrant and taut. Best 2008 to 2010.
Fielding 2004 Merlot Reserve ($35, winery, 87 pts) is a pricy, mid-weight, very spicy red with lifted, slightly underripe raspberry-red currant fruit and smoky notes from the barrel. Some merlot suppleness centred by firm acidity. A bit green.
Fielding 2004 Cabernet Franc ($17.95, Vintages 36194, 85 pts)A surprising, pale, lighter red with appealing, typical raspberry jam, red pepper jelly aromas common to cab franc, plus a touch oak smokiness and tobacco. Best this year.
* N.B. Readers will note that we’ve shifted from our usual star system to a scoring system. This change will be reflected in the magazine and guides as well. The scoring works as follows: scores are assigned on a 100-point scale and reflect a wine’s overall quality, but don’t consider price. A rating of 95 to 100 means outstanding; 90 to 94 excellent; 85 to 89 very good; 80 to 84 good.