Last week I wrote about bubbles and dessert wines and how they make their way into holiday fêtes like bookends on a shelf.
When the fizz has left the flute and the appetizers turn eclectic, the imperative focus shifts from pétillement to whist white. It just so happens that a remarkably rich and complex local folio of four will stand in the festive spotlight this coming weekend. Two are more than affordable while the others will demand a few pennies. First of all, it’s the holidays, so go out and indulge yourself. Secondly, the splurge picks are two of the best Ontario white wines I have tasted in 2012.
The grape: Chardonnay
The history: Derek Barnett embraces the no-oak Ontario groove and masters it
The lowdown: Could very well be the most versatile white wine style for the Ontario dinner table
The food match: Tortilla Española
Lailey Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 (299776, $15.95) is like a bottle of apples reduced to smooth, silky goodness. Creamy, August peach and corn, herbal, lemon balm curd, balance throughout. Everyone should be making unoaked Chardonnay in Niagara. It just fits. 88
The grape: Chenin Blanc
The history: A nod to the Loire Valley’s Demi-Sec style, here on the Beamsville Bench
The lowdown: Not sure any other Ontario vineyard combines pedigree, innovation, marketability and saturation with a boutique-style better than Cave Spring
The food match: Omelette Chèvre et Miel
Cave Spring Chenin Blanc 2009 (627315, $17.95) come across off-dry at the outset as an aromatic, interwoven tapestry-bound cheesecloth of chèvre, honeycomb, lemon/lime and naphte. There is mango and creamy vanilla custard on the sweet and tangy palate. When you go Beamsville, remember to go C-Blanc. 88
The grape: Riesling
The history: “Reserve” may not necessarily be indicated on the bottle, but this is very much a reserve Riesling from the Twenty Mile Bench
The lowdown: Ed Madronich ventures into the realm inhabited by emerging Niagara icons with this tour de force ’09
The food match: Flaky Blood Orange Tart
Flat Rock Reserve Riesling 2009 (231266, $30.00) sports a cracking new label and cruises lemon hither and lime forth. Toasty, yeasty and wild, the FR cubed is Champagne-like in its baking bread aromas. Flint strike and tang, tang, tang, dayum! This ferment might make for great bubbles, in the vein of Hinterland’s Charmat. 90
The grape: Pinot Gris
The history: Not exactly imbued with Alsatian minerality and acidity but here PG lays down its legacy on the Niagara Peninsula
The lowdown: Winemaker Bruce Nicholson reproducing Zind-Humbrecht? Not exactly, neither in style nor result but call me out if this isn’t the most compelling Ontario Pinot Gris to date
The food match: Lebanese Apricots with Pomegranate Syrup
Inniskillin Legacy Pinot Gris 2009 (229591, $35.00) is a primordial lake of oozing honey and petrol. Verges on Vendanges Tardive, then meanders nut-toasty, spewing scents of mango, papaya and pineapple. Honey again and again, but also that indescribable and golden concentration of evolved, off-dry Pinot Gris, dotted with specs of pepper. 91
Good to go!