As you undoubtedly already know (especially if you have been reading this blog), Ontario produces many successful wines but one varietal that has recently really caught my attention is Riesling.
Freddy Price, in his book “Riesling Renaissance”, claims that “Riesling is the most expressive white wine in the world.”
It is said that Riesling is the grape that most reflects the terroir in which it is grown. Riesling is made in the vineyard. Chardonnay, on the other hand, is made in the winery. Malolactic fermentation and new oak ageing can work very well with Chardonnay, but should be avoided with Riesling as these techniques can smother the beautiful, natural aromatics of the grape.
The Riesling vine is well-suited to Ontario’s cool-climate. It buds late in the spring and ripens relatively early making it more resistant to late spring and early autumn frosts, and the vine’s hard wood provides protection from Ontario’s extremely cold winter temperatures.
While Ontario is most famous for it’s Riesling Icewines and late harvest wines (which can be superb), many wineries also produce some fabulous dry and off-dry versions. Tawse, Vineland, Cave Spring, Inniskillin, and Konzelmann are just a few examples.
13th Street and Thirty Bench are 2 wineries I recently visited that also produce stunning Rieslings.
13th Street Wine Corp.
13th Street was founded in 1998 by the Douglas, Funk, Jacobson, and Willms families. Their dedication to exceptional, hand-crafted, small-lot wines was evident in their products. In 2008, the winery was sold to Doug and Karen Whitty and John Mann and significant investments have been made in purchasing new, state-of-the-art equipment and new vineyards. And, the winery was moved from 13th Street to Fourth Ave.
2007 Riesling Funk Vineyard VQA Creek Shores: The Funk Vineyard was planted in 1976. These old vines produce a wine that has intense aromas of petrol, citrus, mineral and apple. Crisp acidity and mouth-watering flavours of lime zest and green apple are evident in this balanced and elegant Riesling.
2008 Riesling Funk Old Vines VQA Creek Shores: This wine comes from the same Funk Vineyard as the 2007 mentioned above. The 2008 vintage is the first to indicate “Old Vines” on the label. Delicate floral notes and pronounced aromas of stone fruit, lemon and lime peel give this wine excellent complexity and interest. Peach and other stone fruit flavours are lifted by zesty acidity and mineral on the beautifully lingering finish. I was surprised to note that the 2007, with its warmer and drier weather, showed more mineral and acid than the 2008 which seemed a much fruitier wine. Both wines were exceptional.
Thirty Bench Wine Makers
Thirty Bench was founded in 1994 as a producer of premium, small-lot wines with Riesling as their signature grape. The first Thirty Bench vineyard was planted in 1980 and, along with 13th Street’s Funk Vineyard, are among the oldest vines in the Niagara Region. The grapes in the estate vineyards are hand-picked at low yields in order to maximize fruit intensity, and then hand sorted before processing. Their attention to detail and dedication to quality is obvious in the beautifully aromatic small-lot Rieslings created each year by the talented winemakers.
In 2005, the winery and vineyards were purchased by Andres Wines (known as Andrew Peller Limited as of 2006). Although the tasting room and boutique are still housed in the rustic-looking barn, the inside got a much needed makeover and new equipment was purchased for the winery. Thirty Bench also makes some excellent red varietals and a great Chardonnay.
The following three Rieslings all come from the same vineyard, but over the years it was noticed that certain parcels of the vineyard had very unique terroir which showed in the wines. They now produce 3 different small-lot wines based on the area in the vineyard the grapes are sourced from.
Riesling ‘Steel Post’ Vineyard 2008: Mineral aromas dominate, supported by grapefruit, lime juice, pear, and a touch of petrol. The wine is just slightly off-dry with 11.8g/l of residual sugar, balanced by zesty acidity. Flavours of mineral, pear, and honey linger on the long finish.
Riesling ‘Triangle Vineyard’ 2008: This wine has a veritable fruit salad of aromas including peach, apricot, melon, pear, and apple. Mineral and honey round out the very complex nose. This wine is also slightly off-dry with succulent acidity, petrol, pineapple and honeycomb flavours. This is definitely a beautifully balanced wine.
Riesling ‘Wood Post’ Vineyard 2008: Intense peach and citrus aromas dominate the nose with a hint of spice to add even more interest. It is a well-balanced wine with zesty flavours of lime peel, grapefruit, and lemon. The mouth-watering crisp acidity lingers on the beautiful citrussy finish.