Niagara Auction Previews: The 2007 Reds

Niagara Auction Previews: The 2007 Reds

The colour was deep and the fruit was ripe among 10 Niagara reds showcased in the first public tasting of heavyweights from the 2007 vintage. These excellent wines were decanted during a barrel auction as part of the lucrative Niagara Wine Weekend and Auction, which netted a substantial amount for the SickKids Foundation and St. Catharines General Hospital. Over 1,000 people paid $1,000 each to attend the second annual afternoon garden party and gala black-tie dinner in The Commons in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The fundraising highlight was the standing ovation–worthy generosity of musician and event host Jann Arden, who pledged $100,000 toward the purchase of heart diagnostic equipment at SickKids. After that, the floodgates opened and $440,000 was raised during this one auction segment alone.

But back to the barrel-auctioned wines, which fetched over $40,000, with each barrel being split among five bidders. Bidders won’t receive their wines until well into 2009, when the big reds come out of the barrels and are blended, filtered and bottled.

As it happened, I did not taste one of the top-bidded wines—Peller Estates 2007 Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon—that went for $1,000 per case ($85 per bottle) to the top bidder. Three other wines in the Andrés-Peller portfolio were among the top earners, including my favourites, led by the remarkable Hillebrand Trius Grand Red2007 ($850 per case), a cabernet-merlot blend made only in the best vintages. It showed perfectly ripened black raspberry fruit and floral notes (not much oak yet), with chewy density, firm acid grip and excellent length. It is too early to pin a precise rating on an unfinished wine, but based on its balance and depth it should easily hit over 91 points (90 is excellent) and age for up to 20 years.

Thirty Bench 2007 Wine Makers Benchmark Red, another Bordeaux-style blend, also fetched $1,000 per case, a worthy successor to the 2005 Benchmark Red that captured top honours at the Cuvée competition this year. The 2007 was not as concentrated and profound as I expected, but was still very elegant and aromatic (88 to 90 points) for drinking about 2012.

Hillebrand 2007 Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon ($500 per case) was one of the better deals, very perfumed, rich and elegant already, with excellent length (91 to 93 points). Still, with Bordeaux-style reds, Château des Charmes 2007 Equuleus ($425 per case) was the monster, with almost overripe fruit, thick structure and massive tannin that will need a decade or so to soften (89 to 91 points).

Henry of Pelham 2007 Cabernet-Merlot Reserve ($550 per case) was mid-weight, with firm acidity, tannin and very good length (88 to 90 points) that should also reward aging well into the next decade.

Three pinot noirs were also poured and attracted considerable attention. Inniskillin 2007 Founders Pinot Noir ($675 per case) shocked with its colour depth, ripe blackberry fruit and fine, firm tannin, again a wine that should age very well (89 to 91 points). Coyote’s Run 2007 Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir ($400 per case) showed very lifted strawberry-cherry jam and spice in a quite supple style for earlier drinking (87 to 89 points). John Howard 2007 Sonofabitch Pinot Noir ($475 per case) was already showing lifted, evolved oak-driven aromas, with a lean but flavourful palate (87 to 89 points).

One of the more intriguing wines was the Jackson-Triggs 2007 Delaine Vineyard Syrah ($675 per case), which again showed more colour and ripeness than usual but still had typical syrah white pepper and spice—definitely less green than many Niagara syrahs to date.

The only white wine on the block was Malivoire 2007 Moira Vineyard Chardonnay, which came second overall in the bidding at $905 per case. Alas, I did not taste this, either.