During the last couple of weeks I have discovered three great value red wines from Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. All three utilize traditional Bordeaux grapes either as single varietals or as a blend. I’m always hearing people say that Ontario makes great white wines from Chardonnay and Riesling (and indeed we do), but they don’t believe we are capable of good red wines, with the exception of Pinot Noir. Well, all 3 of these wines will prove that Ontario can, in fact, make ripe, complex red wines – at the very reasonable price of $20 (all are available at the LCBO).
Now granted, two of these wines are from the stellar 2007 vintage which has been hailed as Ontario’s best vintage to date (2010 may be equally as great…or even better?), but one wine is from the lesser 2008 vintage. And, these wines are only three among many well-priced, very good red wines from Ontario.
The 2007 vintage was characterized by warm and dry weather. The Niagara Peninsula received about half of the average amount of seasonal rainfall in some areas. Temperatures throughout the wine regions were slightly higher than normal with some very high heat spikes. September and October were dry, providing excellent conditions for the harvest. The dry conditions and extra heat put some stress on the vines, forcing the roots to dig deep into the ground searching for moisture. The vines reduced the vigour of their foliage and put all their energy into producing fruit. Yields were slightly lower than average, but the fruit produced was excellent quality, especially for those grapes that require longer ripening times, such as the Cabernets, Merlot, and Syrah.
Creekside Estate 2007 Laura Red VQA Niagara Peninsula: A blend of 39.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, and 0.5% Petit Verdot. A deep ruby colour with a complex nose of black cherry, blackcurrant, black licorice, cedar, and smoky earth. Vanilla, spice and dark berries on the palate with a slight sour cherry finish. Firm, but integrated tannins. Drinking well now or cellar 3 to 5 years. $19.95
Strewn 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara Peninsula: Developing aromas of cassis, plum, and other dark fruit, topped with cedar and spice, some dusty earth, and graphite. This is a well-structured wine with ripe, firm tannins that could use a little time to soften more. Flavours of sandalwood, cedar, mineral, black cherry, and black licorice lead to a pleasant, lingering finish. Drinking well now, but could use another 3 to 5 years in the cellar to really shine. $19.95
The 2008 vintage started with a cool spring. Warmer temperatures finally arrived in June, but the rest of the summer was wetter than normal, especially in the Niagara Peninsula. Conditions improved in September with warm, sunny weather, just in time for the harvest. The favourable fall conditions and careful vineyard management, such as crop thinning and leaf removal enabled grapes to ripen properly. The grapes were eventually picked at normal sugar levels. Cool climate grapes, such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Gamay showed well.
Rosewood Estates 2008 Merlot Renaceau Vineyard VQA Beamsville Bench: Rosewood has managed to coax ripe, complex flavours from the Merlot grapes despite the more challenging vintage. Aromas of spicy plum, black and red cherry, and mocha. Balanced with good concentration, ripe tannins, and medium plus length. A very pleasant wine to drink now or wait 2 to 3 years. $20