If anyone hasn't heard yet, I just came back from tripping through the Niagara wine region. There has been a lot of controversy brought on by a couple of posters about this region and many extremely negative impressions, I'm glad I don't believe everything I read, because I would have missed a lovely experience.
I tasted a couple of hundred wines over 5 days, and although many wineries had inconsistant reds, there were some beautiful exceptions. Unfortunately many of the better reds were over-priced. I base this statement on reputation, and the need to build that reputation before commanding top dollar. By the same token though, I have paid more for California reds of less quality, so i'm not saying some of these wines aren't worthy of 30-40$ price tags, just that it's a tough sell at this stage of the game.
The vintages to watch for are the '98s, some decent '99s although the vintage was sketchy, and the '01s are considered highly, although only very few are released at this time.
These are the wineries and wines I especially enjoyed.
1) Konzelmann - whenever anyone asked me after my return which were my favourites, Konzelmann is always the first winery out of my mouth. It seems they are determined in there quest for quality, and they have a good handle on the German/Alsace varietals. Thank you to Klaus for the gratis late harvest Gerwurtz. Excellent quality whites !!
'99 dry 'late harvest' Riesling
'00 Pinot Blanc
'00 Riesling Grand Reserve
'99 dry 'late harvest' Gerwurtz
'99 Riesling Ice wine
'98 Cab/Merlot unfiltered Reserve
2) Lailey - Only in it's second year of operation as a winery, but they provided grapes for several of the regions vitners for many years.
'00 Chardonnay - good QPR - thanks to Dmytro for this gift !!!
'00 Merlot - although tannic and harsh now, very good structure.
'98 Oak Aged Videl Ice wine
4) Marynissen - I sat with father John and his cat, his daughter-winemaker Sandra was not around at the time. I brought in some BC wines, and he pulled out 20 of his. He's not one for words, but I spent about 1.5 hours with him. I thank him for the gratis Cab/Merlot.
'99 Chardonnay "F" - 22 year old vines
'99 Cab Franc
'98 Cab/merlot - he gave me a bottle to take home upon my departure. I drank it before I got to the airport . I LOVED this wine !
5) Chateau des Charmes - beautiful facilities, family owned and operated.
'00 Vionier St. Davids Bench
'98 Paul Bosc Chardonnay
'99 St. Davids Bench Merlot - good buy at 25$
6) Henry Of Pelham - I was suprised I liked so many of their wines. It probably helped that those Speck brothers were so damn cute and engaging though Thanks to them for the gratis '98 Speck Bordeaux blend.
'01 unoaked Chardonnay
'01 Rose - QPR
'01 Sauvignon Blanc
'00 Baco Noir - I drank this often when I was up in cottage country the following week, at 12$ it's an excellent QPR BBQ wine.
'98 Speck ( bordeaux blend )
'00 Riesling Ice wine
7) Hernder - I spent the better part of an afternoon with Ray Cornell(winemaker), he must have opened 40 bottles for me, unfortunately only 3 stood out. Thanks to him for his time and the gratis bottle of Reserve unfiltered Cabernet.
'01 Reserve Gerwurtz
'99 Chardonnay 'barrel fermented'
'99 Reserve Cabernet unfiltered
'01 Rhubarb wine -I actually liked this a lot, it smelled like my moms rhubarb pie cooking in the oven.
8) Creekside - thanks for the gratis Sauvignon Blanc & P. Gris Fred - the sales assistant from France.
'01 P Gris
'01 Sauvignon Blanc
'01 Rose - QPR
'99 Late Harvest - great QPR
'99 Vidal Ice Wine
9) Vineland Estates - Brian Schmidt - winemaker - thanks to him for the gratis Gerwurtz Reserve. I loved his white wines, they unfortunately sold out of the Ice wines in March - they must've been good.
'99 Gerwurtz Reserve
'00 Semi-dry Riesling - QPR
'00 Chardonnay Reserve
10) Lakeview Cellars
'99 Cabernet - thanks to Deborah Woodhouse for the gratis bottle
11) Willow Hieghts - had a tasting of all their wines, I brought in mine from BC. Enjoyed very much the hospitality of owners Avis and Ron Sperinzini(winemaker) and the gratis gift of Chardonnay.
'00 Chardonnay 'sur lie' - great QPR
12) Maliviore - thanks so much to Tammy Kruck and winemaker/ex-British Columbian Ann Sperling for the bottle of Moira Chardonnay, and their hospitality.
'99 Moira Chardonnay - one of the finest Chardonnays I had in the region.
'00 Riesling Ice Wine
13) Lenko - unfortunately Daniel was away, but I sat with his assistant winemaker Ilya Senchuck and his funny mom Helen in the family kitchen. Helen was especially a 'card', and told me she would TRY to keep quiet while we tasted as 'Danny' has recently instructed of her, but you could tell it was very difficult for her. After the tasting she begged me to stay for supper, but I had made plans to meet Dmytro and was already running late, so she insisted on my having some blueberry pie hot out of the oven, and sent me home with a gift wrapped bottle of the Raspberry wine I loved so much, and several articles and clippings. Thanks for the amusement and hospitality Helen, you made my day
'00 Vidal Ice Wine
'01 Raspberry wine - I was as suprised about this as you are who are reading this.
14) Thirty Bench
'98 Reserve Chardonnay
'98 Riesling Ice Wine
15) Peninsula Ridge - thanks to Benjamin Simmons for the bottle of Meritage, because I would never hve paid 49$ for it, even though it is excellent.
'01 Sauvignon Blanc
I think I was charged for only two tastings, and as you can see folks were giving me 'my' favourites to take home and share with my friends and colleagues. I had a wonderful time, and I now know better if some loser tries to tell me that Ontario wines are not good, because several of them are very, VERY good.