Cave Spring Riesling, 2013

20161004_191113.jpgMaker: Cave Spring Cellars, Jordan, Ontario, Canada.

Place of origin: Niagara Peninsula VQA, Ontario, Canada (approx. 75% from estate & family vineyards)

Vintage: 2013

ABV: 11%

Price: C$16/$12 USD (LCBO)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: Mild. Lemon, orange zest.

Palate: Medium bodied, semi-dry. Lemon/lime soda, limestone, thyme.

Finish: Light. Underripe pear.

Parting words: I got this bottle a few months ago when I made a run to the border to pick up some Canadian whisky and wine. The whisky selection was as expected, but the selection of Canadian wine was very disappointing. Luckily they had a few bottles from some better known producers like Jackson Triggs and Cave Spring so I grabbed some of those.

I was first turned on to Cave Spring after tasting their Dry Riesling at the City of Riesling event in Traverse City in the summer of 2015. The geology of the Niagara region is special and it shows in this bright and refreshing, but not dull, Riesling. It’s well worth the price. I look forward to exploring more from them in the near future! I hope they ship to Michigan or maybe I can convince my wife to take a Niagara getaway next summer.

 

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Pelee Island Winery Late Harvest Riesling, 2011

Maker: Pelee Island, Kingston, Ontario, Canada2015-12-02-13.45.48.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Ontario VQA.

ABV: 12.5%

Purchased for $13 (Hollywood Market, Madison Heights)

Other information: Residual sugar: 36.1 g/ltr. Harvested at 23.1 Brix.

Appearance: Golden straw with thick, even legs and a few crystals.

Nose: Thyme, cut white peach, Bartlett pear, lychee, whiff of gasoline.

Palate: Full bodied. Lychee, oregano, Meyer lemon, mango, orange marmalade.

Finish: Peachy and sweet. Lasts a long time before fading into herbal flavors.

Parting words: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. The last Pelee Island wine I had was the crummy Pinot Noir I reviewed a few months ago. This wine was on sale and from a good white vintage in Michigan, so I figured it was probably a good one in Ontario too so it was worth a try.

It’s an Ontario VQA (as opposed to Pelee Island) so one probably wouldn’t expect much in the way of terroir influence, but there is some broad terroir character. The time in the bottle has benefited it greatly as well. It is rich and sweet but still carries a lot of typically dry flavors and aromas. This is a very good wine for a reasonable price. Pelee Island Winery Late Harvest Riesling, 2011 is recommended.

Pelee Island Pinot Noir

Maker: Pelee Island Winery, Kingsville, Ontario, Canadawpid-2015-06-30-15.51.05.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Pelee Island VQA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 12.5%

Purchased for $13 (Northwood Market)

Appearance: Dark plum.

Nose: Blackberry, blueberry, dried tobacco, strawberry.

Palate: Blueberry, black raspberry, strawberry, leather.

Finish: Very mild then fades into a strong bitter flavor.

Parting words: I reviewed the 2007 vintage way back in 2011 and I liked it. It was a fine, table-grade Pinot. This is certainly table-grade but not fine. The soapy, bitter finish ruins a decent (though clunky) wine. It fares a little better chilled but not much. Pelee Island has been in the game for a long time. Surely they can pull of something better than this mess. I wish I had a better review for Canada Day, but this vintage of Pelee Island Pinot Noir is not recommended.

Jackson-Triggs Vidal Ice Wine Reserve

Maker: Jackson-Triggs, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canadawpid-2014-10-08-19.50.35.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: J-T Niagara Estate, Niagara Peninsula VQA, Ontario, Canada

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 9.5%

Price: $24/187 ml (Binny’s)

Appearance: Dark gold with long, broad legs.

Nose: Canned Bartlett pears, mandarin oranges, Meyer lemon.

Palate: Full bodied, the syrup in that can of Bartlett pears, orange juice from concentrate, pinch of thyme.

Finish: A long lingering sweetness all over the mouth accompanied by a hint of golden apple.

Parting words: The Niagara Peninsula VQA is a blanket appellation for any wine produced in the Niagara municipal region in Southern Ontario. This area is bordered by Lake Erie to the south, Lake Ontario to the north, the Niagara River to the east and the city of Hamilton to the west. The region includes several sub-regions, including Niagara Escarpment, Niagara-on-the-Lake and their subdivisions.

Having water on three sides creates a micro-climate favorable for the growing of grapes, as one might expect. The climate remains Canadian, so early and late frosts and freezes are a constant concern. This is a problem for most types of wine production, but not for the production of ice wine, a style that Canada does very well across the board.

Picking the grapes while they are frozen concentrates the sugars like “noble rot” or the straw wine process does, resulting in a thick, sweet, aromatic (and expensive) dessert wine. In Canada and the northern U.S., the hybrid grape Vidal is often used alongside the more traditional Riesling. Vidal is used for its hardiness and ability to produce wines with high acidity and sugar levels in cold climates.

This one is a good example of a Canadian Vidal ice wine. It’s thick and rich but not flabby. The approachable pear and citrus flavors make it a good introduction to the style, as does the relatively low price. Jackson-Triggs 2011 Vidal Ice Wine Reserve is recommended.

Eco Trail Red

Maker: Pelee Island, Kingsville, Ontario, Canada.EcoTrailRed

Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir, Chambourcin.

Place of origin: Ontario VQA, Canada

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 13%

Appearance: Dark crimson.

Nose: Blueberry jam, oak, hint of cedar, black pepper and allspice.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Wild blackberries, prunes, cherry juice, mace, toasted oak.

Finish: A little chewy and drying. Nicely balanced between fruit and wood.

Parting words: When I was at Pelee Island Winery last summer Eco Trail Red was by far the best red wine I tasted that day. They sell a bewildering number of different wines and as one would expect the whites are better on the whole than the reds. That said, some of their reds are very enjoyable and they’re not always the most expensive ones. This wine is a prime example of that.

Eco Trail is an excellent table wine in the best sense of the term, i.e. a wine to drink with a meal. The Cab Franc takes the lead and the two hybrids round it out nicely. It’s affordable and doesn’t need more than a year or two in the bottle to blossom. I have never seen it for sale in the US, or even anywhere else in Canada other than the winery shop. If you are in Ontario and happen to be driving by Kingsville on the north coast of Lake Erie, stop in and pick up a bottle. Eco Trail Red is recommended.

Pelee Island Winery Pinot Gris

Maker: Pelee Island Winery

Place of origin: Pelee Island VQA, Ontario, Canda

Vintage: 2008

Style: Late Harvest

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Light gold with thick, sparse legs.

Nose: Dry and mild. Light smoke, heirloom apples.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Slightly smokey and oaky. A bit of fruit with lychee and dry apple cider.

Finish: Woody and smoky but well balanced.

Parting Words: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. The smoke (and spelling) of this wine invoke Alsace, but it’s  drier with less fruit than most Alsatian Pinot Gris I’ve had, belying its late harvest status.

After tasting a couple of Pelee Island’s high end wines on my last trip to their tasting room (in Kingsville, not on the island itself) I had low expectations for this one. But this Pinot Gris is top notch.

Highly recommended.

Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling

Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling

Maker: Pelee Island, Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Gapes: Gewurztraminer (50%), Riesling (50%)

Region: Ontario VQA, Canada

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12.5%

Appearance: Light gold. Thick, sticky robe.

Nose: Ripe peaches, tangerine, coriander, pineapple

On the palate: Medium-bodied & fairly dry. Lemon thyme, Meyer lemon, white pepper.

Finish: slightly citric & vegetal. fades fairly quickly.

Parting words: Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling is a relative newcomer to the Pelee Island stable, but it’s a very good one. Both these grapes do very well in NE wine belt stretching from Michigan’s west coast through southern Ontario into upstate New York. The mix of grapes may bring Alsace to mind, but this wine is all North American on the palate and in the nose. Crisp peach and citrus notes make this a very refreshing drink when chilled, but one with enough interest to appeal to serious wine lovers, at least ones that aren’t put off by the very concept of Canadian wine. If they are, that’s more for you! Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling is recommended.

Pelee Island Pinot Noir

Maker: Pelee Island Winery, Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Grape: Pinot Noir

Region: Pelee Island VQA, Ontario, Canada

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 13%

Appearance: light Burgundy (of course) nice, thick legs

Nose: Black raspberry, black currant, black cherry

On the Palate: light body, raspberry, tart cherry, leather, firewood, blackberry, blueberry

Finish: leather, blackberry jam

Parting words: Two things make Pelee Island’s terroir unique in Canada.  First, Pelee Island, located in Lake Erie, is the southernmost point in Canada (ok, a small island south of Pelee actually is). Its latitude is approximately  42° N, which also passes through Spain, Corsica, Central Italy, and constitutes the border between California and Oregon, all wine country to varying degrees. Second the waters of the lake moderate the climate preventing late frosts in spring and early frosts in winter. Pelee Island’s climate is warm and temperate compared even to other areas of Southern Ontario. The island is also host to a wide variety of rare (for Canada) flora and fauna, many of which make appearances on Pelee Island Winery labels.

Southern Ontario, like its neighbors in upstate New York and Northern Michigan, is not known for its reds. Pinot Noir is grown in Ontario and adjacent areas but is up and down in terms of quality, and often gets chucked into table blends. This wine, however, is an up one.  It is an enjoyable and reasonably complex wine that can stand up to any middle-shelf Pinot on the planet. Recommended.

Review: Smith & Wilson Estate Viognier

Maker: Smith & Wilson, Blenheim, Ontario

Region:  Lake Erie North Shore QVA

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 12.3%

Color: golden straw

Nose: slightly herbal, sweet, apples and pears, floral.

On the palate: Good body, sweet, mellow, slightly tart, almond, fresh apricot.

Finish: Oranges, apricots. Fairly quick, but the sweetness lingers for a while.

Parting Words: Smith & Wilson produces a fairly wide variety of wines for such a small producer. Their wines can only, to my knowledge, be purchased at their tasting room in Blenheim. They have a nice variety of reds and whites, and many of the reds are quite good, especially with age. They’re not chicken, either. Viogner is a fickle grape, especially in a fickle climate like the North Shore of Lake Erie. They also make a double barrel-aged Cab Franc/Merlot/Syrah blend that is very good as well. It’s worth stopping if you are driving between Detroit and London, Ontario.