You’ll declare it’s simply topping
To be there and hear them swapping
It was a night for putting on the ritz at the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario. On Friday March 1, 2013 the 25th Cuvée was held, a singular celebration of meritorious VQA wines and celestial, local comestibles. Part Toronto Taste and part Taste Ontario, the evening was presented by the Niagara Community Foundation. Established in 2000, the NCF is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Niagara through building endowment funds ($16 million raised), providing grants (in excess of $4.1 million) and enabling philanthropic partnerships.
In the tradition of a grand tasting, more than 40 Ontario wineries were asked to pour their vintners’ personal favourites, determinate wines forged of passion and craft. Many of these signature, nomes de plume will reemerge in future tastings and will help to define their maker’s legacies. This 2013 event signaled a format shift in direction, away and to the dismay of some, from a wine awards ceremony towards a forward thinking industry’s show of togetherness.
Live cooking stations, many staffed with armies of chefs, spared no expense to design layered dishes built upon house-cured larder, local and artisanal ingredients. The food component was certainly no afterthought and threatened to steal away the VQA thunder. Fortunately many of the chosen wines were some of Ontario’s best and if you have followed anything I have been writing this past year, you will know that I am serious about Ontario’s wine industry. If nothing else, Cuvée 2013 succeeded to entrench an indisputable truth. The Niagara wine industry is the bomb.
In the words of Hidden Bench Vigneron and Proprietor Harald Thiel, “if Canada wants to have a place in the wine world, we need to carve it.” This sentiment is shared and pursued in kind with the efforts of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University (CCOVI) and the VQA Promoter Awards, but also by the Wine Council of Ontario, The Ontario Wine Society and Wine Country Ontario.
The grand tasting gave way at 9:30 for Après Cuvée, complete with an ice sculpted Icewine & Bubbles bar opposite a host of local craft beers. It was the Niagara wine world’s version of Après-ski, with cheese, charcuterie and dancing along with Jonesy, a five-piece pop/rock cover band from St. Catharines. Inglorious 80’s mercenaries, morphing Corey Hart, Platinum Blonde, INXS, U2 and George Michael into one wedding band package. The Ontario wine cognoscenti danced. So did their sons and daughters, thanks and with props to the Adele and Bruno Mars covers.
But I digress. The night and the weekend belonged to the wine. In addition to the gala, the
Cuvee En Route passport allowed wine fans to tour, taste and attend events along the wine route Friday through Sunday. Here are notes on ten exceptional wines from Cuvée 2013 with a nod to the winemakers who made them.
Bachelder Wismer Chardonnay 2010 (Thomas Bachelder, $44.95, coming to VINTAGES) from the Twenty Mile (Vineland) Bench is the most righteous, understated charred butterscotch remoulade sauce of dreams. Richly textured and built upon a sneaky, slow and stretched breath of wild yeasts. A creeper, gatherer and traveler of both knowledge and persistence. The journey with Thomas Bachelder as related by partner Mary Delaney, from out of Quebec, by way of Ponzi and Lemelson in Oregon and to Niagara is the stuff of dreams. Tasted twice same night and hypnotized both times. 94 @Bachelder_wines
Château Des Charmes Equuleus 2010 (Paul Bosc, $40, ONT, winery only, SAQ, 11156334, $41.25) from the Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard is a classically styled blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot, only made in exceptional years. Apropos choice from 25-year old vines (in 2010) from the warmer St. David’s Bench for Cuvée’s 25th show. Poised, balanced and regal yet this mare is temporarily a head-shy, sensitive equine red. Will trot out furlongs of tobacco and meaty aromas from now and through maturity in five plus years. A saddle of round, red fruit will age gracefully. 92 @MBosc
Coyote’s Run Estate Winery Rare Vintage Pinot Noir 2010 (David Sheppard, $49.95, winery only) was vinified out of the five best barrels narrowed down from one specific (828) vineyard block. Sheppard’s RV Pinot is a Red Paw/Black Paw block party only thrown in a year possessed of the finest Pinot fruit. In 2010 there is zing cherry, coal, cola, cold stone, fennel, vanilla and a touch of raw ewe milk cheese. Complex PN. 91 @coyotesrun
Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 (Jay Johnston, $45, winery only) is a breath of fresh ’09 air calmly hovering amid a sea of flamboyant 2010’s. Lush, smooth and silky with a Gevrey-Chambertin verve in acidity so perfectly denoting the ’09 (Twenty Mile) Bench vintage. Assistant winemaker Tom Holt makes the bold statement that Flat Rock owns the best Pinot soil in all of Niagara. The plan is to produce three micro-soil/vineyard Pinots from the 2011 vintage. Can you say Grand Cru? 91 @Winemakersboots @UnfilteredEd
Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet-Merlot 2010 (Ron Giesbrecht, $50, 616433) from the sunnier and warmer sponge that is the Short Hills Bench is built of a learned structure that only a select few Niagara wines can boast. Fresh, juicy fruit and blitzing acidity for a 38/35/29 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc family sledge blend. “I’d like to see you reach your peak” SFR but I’ll have to heed Giesbrecht’s warning of oeno-infanticide and wait five to ten years. Tasted twice over the weekend. 92 @SpeckBros
Kacaba Vineyards and Winery Syrah Reserve 2010 (John Tummon, $69.95, winery only) from terraced estate vineyards on the Vineland Bench was co-fermented with 4% Viogner. Clearly marked for a Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie effect not to intrude on the Syrah but to soften its edges. There is pencil lead, black peppery fruit and citrus zest. Large and yet unsettled, this complex wine is whiles away from showing its true personality. 89 @KacabaVineyards
Lailey Vineyard Winery ‘Impromptu’ Syrah/Malbec/Petit Verdot 2010 (Derek Barnett, $45, winery only) from the Niagara River appellation is a 75/13/12 split and only produced in the finest vintages. Unique and distinctly Rhône-like in style though not easy to pinhole with 25% Bordeaux varietals confusing the issue. Varnished by a dichotomous combination of tar and roses with an obvious wall of meaty tannin. Perhaps a chip off of Mcinerney‘s soulful and earthy, Delta Blues Cornas block. 90 @laileywinemakr
Pillitteri Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve ‘Exclamation’ 2010 (Alex Kolundzic, $35, winery only) from family vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake ventures into voluptuous, black forest, fruitcake territory. A 24-month soak in French oak imparts espresso and leather and it’s as if this CF was raised in Napa or designated IGT. But this is NOTL were talking here. Improbable and believable. Tasted twice. 91 @Pillitteriwines
Riverview Cellars Estate Winery Gewurztraminer 2011 (Angela Kasimos, $18.95, 319830) was sadly not presented to the media in advance of the Feb. 16, 2013 VINTAGES release or I would surely have recommended it a month ago. Straddles a spring flower and tropical fruit line, married as it is by two NOTL blocks, one planted in 1992, the other in 2004. The munificent lychee aroma trumps the Mandarin orange blossom and the 100% stainless steel ferment shrouds no mask over the freshest fruit. Impressive, huge Gewurztraminer, if too much of a good thing. 88 @RiverviewWinery
Vineland Estates St. Urban Vineyard Elevation Riesling 2011 (Brian Schmidt, $19.95, 38117) is, as Brian Schmidt says “simply the best wine that we make.” From Niagara’s most famous and benchmark Riesling vineyard, the Elevation’s pale blue stone eyes is a Pointillist painting both pointed and poignant. As I noted previously, “Riesling made in the vineyard like no other. Off-dry, lingering lemon/lime and utopian acidity. Who knows what minerality lurks in the vineyard of St. Urban? The Escarpment knows.” 88 @benchwineguy
Good to go!