I both love and loath best-of wine lists. They are so frustrating to write and they never feel quite complete or fair to all the wines in the region being assessed.
I don’t come close to tasting every wine made in Niagara. I do my best, but with 75 wineries churning out thousands of wines every vintage it’s just not possible.
But, out of all the wines I do taste and assess I come up with my annual Top Wines of the Year that consists of the best 10 red and white wines.
The 2012 year in Niagara wine was amazing. It was the greatest year I can remember for top-quality reds and whites released, all driven by some key factors — most the reds were from superb vintages (the Bordeaux reds from 2010 and the Pinots from 2009) while the whites were spread over several vintages and were dominated by Chardonnay and Riesling.
Two classic varietals were my Red and White Wines of the Year — the Ravine Cabernet Franc Picone Vineyard Reserve 2010 and the Bachelder Wismer Vineyard ‘Winfield Block’ Chardonnay 2010.
These were the two wines I craved the most long after I tasted them and reviewed them.
Our three WIN wines of the week are taken from the list (the full version is posted HERE on Wines In Niagara.
I have included the Red Wine of the Year as it is still available at the winery but does not include the White Wine of the Year as it has not been released as of yet.
So, here are my choices:
Ravine Cabernet Franc Picone Vineyard Reserve 2010
($40, still a few bottles left at the winery, 92 points)
Only 160 cases of this Cab Franc from the Vinemount Ridge appellation were made.
It’s a killer wine and a brilliant example of where this varietal can go in a ripe vintage when grown and made with care.
The nose shows wonderful raspberry-cherry fruit, tobacco, plums, blueberry pie, violets and integrated spice notes.
It shows wonderful balance in the mouth with the fruits well-integrated, fine tannins and an under-handed approach to the oak spices.
Just a very fine, elegant Cab Franc that will absolutely wow you.
There are a lot of things going for this wine, not the least of which is the price, which, in part, is the reason it bested other higher scoring wines to make this list.
It has a dark, menacing (in a good way) colour in the glass. It shouts bold and flavourful and delivers on both accounts.
It’s so Rhone-like on the nose with boysenberry, blueberry, black currants, roasted meats and white pepper aromas.
It rocks on the palate with big meaty red fruits, roasted Espresso bean, game, layers of spices and firm tannins that will soften with a little time in the cellar. An excellent Syrah at an attractive price.
Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Vineyard Riesling 2011
($30, winery, 93 points)
I am always drawn and seduced by this Riesling.
It is one of my favourite wines every year.
I think this will evolve into a finer wine than the 2010, with greater cellaring potential.
It is open-ended on the nose with gushing lime, grapefruit, hints of peach and apple and the most interesting minerals of the three.
This is heady and complex on the palate, a structured Riesling with concentrated lime-citrus, steely acidity, an interesting yet subtle white pepper note and a mouthful of minerals that carry through the finish.
This has it all: Power, length and balance and will reward for years down the road.
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.
Click here to visit the Wines in Niagara ARCHIVE, where Rick’s past stories and wine review’s can be found.