I have been following and documenting on www.WinesInNiagara.com a single grape from bud to harvest and, ultimately, as it will be made into a wine.
It’s been a wonderful season for “Grape X” and I am thankful that Vineland Estates winemaker Brian Schmidt allowed me to chronicle the amazing journey of a single grape. We chose a Riesling grape in Vineland’s famed St. Urban vineyard and finally picked it last week.
I felt like a proud papa as we cut the grape from the vine and tossed it into the grape press for processing. It will a few weeks until it’s fully fermented and a few months before we can actually taste it as a finished wine.
The St. Urban Vineyard always delivers awesome Niagara Riesling but it is only one of the key vineyards at Vineland Estates. Schmidt’s favourite grape variety, Cabernet Franc, is grown at the winery’s Bo-Teek Vineyard.
Some of the top wines from Vineland, including the Reserve Cab Franc and Elevation Chardonnay and Cabernet, were all just released at the estate. The fruit for all three wines is grown in Bo-Teek. I tasted them this week and can highly recommend all three. They are our WIN wines of the week.
Vineland Estate Elevation Bo-Teek Vineyard Cabernet 2010
($25, 91 points)
This is a blend of Cabernet Franc, some Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Merlot.
It shows wonderful pure raspberry, cassis and currant fruit on the nose to go with soft spices and bramble bush.
Its true beauty is on the palate.
It’s an elegant style yet reveals a deliciously ripe fruit profile that doesn’t hammer you over the head. Schmidt says he “chose a softer, more approachable style without excessive tannins” for his Reserve tier red blend.
Managing those aggressive tannins from 2010 required skill in the winery, for example, avoiding harsh pumpovers by keeping the cap (skins, etc.) submerged.
The result is a juicy red with big flavours of black cherry, cassis and blackberry to go with licorice and sweet spices. It’s approachable in its youth and is built to enjoy in the next few years.
Vineland Estate Elevation Chardonnay Bo-Teek Vineyard 2011
($20, 90 points)
Schmidt has always taken a balanced approach to making wine.
Not too much oak, not too much concentration of fruit and everything in balance.
It allows the wine to show its roots and mineral core and, perhaps most importantly, show well with food. It’s about being from someplace, or the catch-all phrase “terroir.”
This lovely Chard displays pear-apple fruit on the nose with a core of minerality and a sprinkle of spice.
It’s nicely balanced on the palate with apple pie and zesty citrus flavours to go with vanilla toast and mouth-watering acidity.
Vineland Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc Bo-Teek Vineyard 2010
($40, 92 points)
This is classic Niagara Cab Franc, made in a style that best shows the fruit of a cool-climate wine region even in a hot vintage.
Aromas range from wild raspberry and black cherry to tobacco leaf, cassis, violets, herbs and cedar.
It’s rich and lavish, but not so concentrated that it’s unbalanced.
All those wonderful flavours have a savoury edge on the palate with red fruits, roasted herbs, cedar and spice all playing nicely together.
It is very good right now but will improve in the cellar for five or more years. Cab Franc done right.
Rick Vansickle is a veteran journalist, wine reviewer and publisher of Wines in Niagara. His reviews appear each Friday in Bullet News. Previous reviews are archived under “Grapevine” tab on the Bullet News home page, under Wines in Niagara. Rick can be found on the web at www.winesinniagara.com.
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