One of the busiest wine weekends of the year in Niagara has come and gone and, it’s pretty safe to say, that to who all came to the revamped Cuvée gala last Friday, the best Niagara (with a smattering of other Ontario) wines were enjoyed.
I have to admit I was skeptical of the new format and disappointed by the loss of yet another wine competition, but I came away as a believer in the rebuilt charity event.
Cuvée, prior to the Silver Anniversary this year, was designed as a competition judged by winemakers with winners revealed (Oscar-style) and poured at the gala event. The competition had its supporters and detractors and it was decided last year to give the event, a major fundraiser for the Niagara Community Foundation, a thorough facelift.
Cuvée has always been a celebration of outstanding Ontario VQA wines and food. But, let’s be honest, it’s really a celebration of Niagara wines. Only four non-Niagara wineries made the long trip to the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls to pour their wines (and who can blame them?), a time and distance commitment that deserves a medal in itself.
In the new format, winemakers were asked to choose their favourite wine to pour for guests. So, unlike other years, where multiple wines were poured per winery, only one wine was served at each table.
Winemakers actually chose two of their wines, one white and one red, and Cuvée organizers made their final selections based on an almost even amount of whites and reds and made sure that all whites weren’t Chardonnay and all reds weren’t Pinot Noir.
In that selection, I think Cuvée succeeded. There was good variety in both reds and whites, even if some wineries weren’t actually pouring their first choice.
The Grand Tasting featured wines from 40 winemakers.
Each winery that poured at Cuvée had the winemaker present to pour the wines and talk about why they felt it was their favourite wine.
Did Cuvée achieve what it set out to do? Did they make the event better and more attractive for consumers to shell out $200 for a ticket that included the Grand Tasting Gala and Après Cuvée and Cuvée en Route pass?
Certainly on the wine side and wow factor for the gala night, I think Cuvée’s latest incarnation is much better for consumers. If you made it to every booth (which I did not) I think you got a remarkable feel for what Ontario does best and what winemakers can do at the very top end of the spectrum.
Our three WIN wines of the week are culled from the incredible selection poured at Cuvée.
Innkiskillin Winemaker’s Series Three Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010
($23, 91 points)
Aromas of blackcurrant, wild raspberry and black cherry, along with savoury-smoky spice, toasted herb, tobacco leaf and licorice jump from the glass of this well-priced cab franc.
It is gorgeous on the palate, with brambly fruit, raspberry, earth, toasted herb and spice all delivered through to a lush, smooth finish. Perfectly ready to drink now.
Ridgepoint Merlot Cabernet and Aglianico 2010
($30, 90 points)
This is a fun wine with a nose of ripe kirsch, red plums, currants and toasted vanilla and spice.
It’s soft and lush on the palate with currants, red fruits, earth and spices all leading to a long, lush finish.
Stratus White 2009
($44, 92 points)
This assemblage contains 38% Chardonnay, 29% Semillon, 22% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Gewurztraminer and 5% Viognier all vinified and aged separately before being brought together before bottling.
It is so different from the 2007 vintage with more verve and, I believe, aging potential. The nose is ripe, expressive and layered with melon, peach, wild honey, lanolin and just a hint of citrus and wood spices that will open up and provide tertiary aromas (and flavours) in time.
It is broad on the palate, textured and complex with a changing profile as it evolves in the glass.
This assemblage comes together smartly with seamless and ripe apple, peach and melon flavours folding into a nuanced and balanced spice profile.
It is youthful and complex, with nervy tension from a vein of acidity that was a hallmark of the vintage.
This is a special wine, and one that will pay big dividends if left in the cellar for a few years.
Rick Vansickle is a veteran journalist, wine reviewer and publisher of Wines in Niagara. His reviews appear each Friday in Bullet News.
Rick can be found on the web atwww.winesinniagara.com.
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