Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spending Family Day in Niagara

Family Day has come and gone. What a beautiful day it was in Southern Ontario. My wife and I used this day to spend time with her family, as we were at my parent’s house the day before. It was a perfect opportunity for us to try some new wineries that we have yet explored.
We packed into my father-in-laws SUV and drove down to Niagara on the Lake to have lunch and look around. Lunch was not a high point for the day, as the service was slow and the food was sub-par. Worse part of it all was that we were wasting valuable time sitting in this restaurant instead of looking around down town Niagara on the Lake, or its surrounding wineries. The only looking around that we did in NOTL was to check out the local cheese shop (Cheese Secrets).  The shop had a really good variety of cheese and also carried Niagara Gold, which has become a wine favourite for the both of us. We then went back to the car and began our wine touring.
First stop was on our way out of NOTL was Stratus! I have really wanted to visit this winery for a very long time, as I have continuously been hearing good things about their wine. The building is very impressive and is the first eco-friendly winery in Ontario. As we entered the massive doors (must have been 20 feet tall) we were greeted by a young lady who would guide us through our tasting.  The cost of the tasting was $10 for 4 wines. I selected their Stratus White 2007 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer for most of it), the Stratus Red 2007 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Malbec blend), the Stratus Malbec 2008, and the Stratus Cab Franc 2007.  Here is the low down of each wine.
Stratus White 2007 ($44)
-  Lush aromas of citrus fruit and wood. This was a full bodied white that would be wonderful with any lighter dishes as well as sipping on a nice summer’s day.  Not an everyday white, but a fabulous white to bring out to show off to guest or to be enjoyed with a love one. This is a very unique white blend.
Score 90
Stratus Red 2007 ($44)
- Dark garnet colour. Fragrant aromas of dark fruit (cherries) and cedar. A full bodied red that was beautiful on the palate. Taste of dark rich fruit with a lasting taste. A wonderful red! Our guide also asked me to compare this to the 2006 red. The difference is night and day. The 2006 was darker and had more earthy notes on the nose. Overall, I preferred the 07. This wine will age for 10 years plus!
Score 93
Stratus Malbec 2008 ($38)
- Looked forward to this wine as it was my first introduction to Canadian Malbec. This grape is getting some serious play all over the world. It is still being grown in France, is King in Argentina, and is now being used in Ontario, B.C., and California.
This wine had dark purple colour. On the nose it had raspberries, spice, and herbal.  On the palate it was full and had high acidity with taste of raspberries. I very intriguing North American Malbec. Worth a look.
Score 88
Stratus Cab Franc 2007 ($38)
- This was the sleeper of the tasting. I did not have high expectations for this wine. I thought it would be good to try and was I ever surprised. This wine was possibly the best wine I tried while at Stratus, especially for its price difference of the Stratus Red.
It was a dark garnet colour that had aroma notes of cassis, black berries, and herbal tones. It would be interesting to see this wine evolve when opening it fresh.  Medium bodied with light acidity. Very lovely on the palate. Give it a try and be pulled in by Ontario Cab Franc! Cellar worthy!
Score 94

After our tasting we went to Pillitteri Winery. A good winery to visit for good QPR wines (Quality/Price ratio). I wasn’t overly excited about the tasting here so I did not make any notes. We purchased a 2007 Cab Franc and a 2010 Pinot Grigio. Funny enough, the following week there was an article about one of the owners and how they are charged with tax fraud. Blaming it on gambling.

When then started to make our way back to Burlington. While driving on the QEW, we made a stop at Hidden Bench Winery in Beamsville. Another winery that I have been waiting to try. This winery specializes on Chardonnay, Rieslings, and Pinot Noir. While parking I could see that their fields had Dijon Pinot clones 777. Should be good!
Tastings cost $10 and you get to choose 3 wines. Like a lot of wineries, they allow you to try others as well if you are showing interest in their craft. I selected to try their 2009 Nuit Blanche White Meritage (Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon), 2008 Terroir Cache Red Meritage (Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Malbec), and lastly their 2009 Estate Pinot Noir. Nicole tried their Chardonnay, which were fabulous! We purchased their 2008 Chardonnay Tete de Cuvee for our cellar. Great Burgundy chardonnay being made here! A lot better then the heavy, creamy stuff that is being pumped out of California!
2009 Nuit Blance White Meritage ($40)
- This wine was bright straw-like in colour. It had aromas of peaches and citrus fruit. On the palate it was dominated by citrus fruit (lemon, grapefruit). A full bodied white. Not my cup of tea, but well made.
Score 84
2008 Terroir Cache Red Meritage ($35)
- Dark in colour. This wine had dark berry aroma. It was very smooth on the palate with berry flavours. Not overly impressed with this wine. I am usually impressed with meritage, but I was not crazy about this wine. Similar to the white, well made. Yet not something I would put into my cellar.
Score 85
2009 Estate Pinot Noir ($38)
- From tasting Hidden Benches Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it is clear that this is their bread and butter. Very impressed with these varieties. This wine showed where it is from. Good terrior. Light red colour. Beautiful aroma of cherries, floral notes, with some wood. This wine on the palate is true cool climate pinot. Great balance! Red fruit dance on the tongue, with earthy tones. Great finish! Bought a bottle for the cellar. Great to see Niagara Pinot Noirs are improving!
Score 93

This was a wonderful trip that I got to share with my new family. I was very impressed by Stratus and Hidden Bench. In the spring/summer I am looking forward to introducing these wineries to friends and family, as well as going to the following wineries that we could not attend (Lailey, Five Rows, Daniel Lenko).

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