Sunday, February 20, 2005

In Niagara Vino

With the snow beginning to swirl down - just in time to make trouble for the Monday morning trip to work - it might be a good moment to cast one's mind away from this mobility-impaired metropolis and towards the ever-improving wine-belt down in the Niagara Peninsula.

Like many, you may be asking why I am brining up a warm weather subject on a frosty February evening. Well, although grapes do only grow and ripen during the warmer weather, many or even most wineries are open for tours and/or tastings throughout the year. In fact, new wines are brought out when the winemaker judges each to be in a state of readiness. (What might be ready for the winemaker is not always ready for you or I as wine consumers.)

So - without further ado - here are my humble recommendations:

Angel's Gate Winery - Beamsville

This is a relatively new winery. The product-line is not as large as some - but the quality is high. Top picks include:

Old Vine Chardonnay 2003 - Nicely-balanced, oaked Chardonnay
Pinot Noir 2002 - Good now - better in 1 year
Merlot "Sigle Vineyard: 2002 - A lush, rich, dense Merlot with a fine chalky tannins

Daniel Lenko Estate - Beamsville

The Lenko's used to supply grapes to more established wineries in the area. Roughly four years ago, Daniel decided to begin making and selling his own wine. Lenko has eschewed building a fancy tasting room. The venue for tasting and sales is the family kitchen. This has not impeded success. In fact, tasting hours have had to be curtailed. When last I checked, hours are 12 - 5 on weekends (reopened at the beginning of this month.)

Top picks:

Unoaked Chardonnay - i.e. fermented, aged in stainless steel tanks - crisp, flavourful
"French Oak" Chardonnay - i.e. fermented in French oak barrels - consistenly one of the top whites from the Peninsula, and one of my favourite white wines from anywhere in the world.
Viognier - The 2002 won many kudos - includes a Gold medal or two. I liked the 2003 better.
Cabernet Franc - As of lasy weekend, Lenko has the 2002 and 2003 on sale. The 2002 is a wine for cellaring - while the 2003 is ready to drink. If you enjoy Cab Franc as I do - both are winners.

Mountain Road Wine Company - Beamsville

MRWC opened to the public only in the last two years. Quite newly released are the following:

Cabernet Franc Reserve 2001
Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2001

both of which are rich, balanced, and just plain delicious red wines. When I picked these off the shelf to take to the cash, my eyes almost popped out when I saw the alcohol by volume 15.5%!

Well - I haven't even left Beamsville yet - so perhaps I'll discuss some of the other wineries in that area in a futire post.

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