Newsletter #281 - A Tough 2017 Season ... so far

06 Sep 2017

 Newsletter #281 

September 7, 2017


  • WineReview: A Tough 2017 Season ... so far

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New & Noteworthy Wines

  • Weekly Wine Video Series:  A Recap of The Latest Videos

  • Ontario Wine UpdatesRe-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

WineReview:  A Tough 2017 Season ... so far

The question on every wine-loving consumers mind this year should be: “how does all the rains affect the growing season?” … But in truth your average consumer won’t even give it a second thought – they just want to know how the wines taste. But for those of you that really care let’s look at it for a bit.

This year has been incredibly rainy, and stressful because of it. Can you recall a week when rain was not in the forecast or did not fall?  Can you name a week of over 30 degree temperatures? Has the summer felt more like an extended spring or an elongated fall?  All of these factors end up affecting how the grapes will grow. At the end of August I posed the question to four winemakers from across the Niagara region, to find out what their feelings on the season has been and their outlook for the future of the vintage … here’s what they had to say:

Bench West …

“I always dislike predicting how a harvest will shape up, especially when we still have a lot of the season ahead of us … the weather ahead of us in the coming two months will really dictate what type of harvest it will be. So far this spring and summer it's been a bit cooler than normal, with more rainfall than average to be sure. It's not a bad thing altogether, but it certainly changes how we'd approach things in the vineyard (versus a hot/dry summer like 2007). As long as vineyards have a healthy crop load, good canopy and are free from disease, things could shape up very nicely if the weather cooperates from here on. Every vintage in Niagara is a bit different it seems, so I'd hesitate to compare it to any other we've had just yet. We've got a lot of winemakers in Niagara who have a lot of experience dealing with vintage variation as well, which is a definite asset.”

Bench East …

“It has been a Very high pressure growing season, sadly if you were not 100% on your vineyards you now have a vineyard full of mold. We have seen lots of other people’s vineyards in a bad state. However we have worked very hard to keep our vineyards clean. The crop is heavy this year, very much like 2013. It’s going to be great for Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay; Cabs etc. will take time and will need a good winemaker.”

Niagara-on-the-Lake …

“We have had a shit ton of rain no doubt, all though not quite as much as some colleagues on the bench.  Disease pressure has been literally off the charts.  Our fruit is all very clean as we did 100% leaf removal in the fruiting zone very early, right at fruit set.  We are currently thinning our fruit aggressively even lower than we would typically do, we also keep a very large canopy which is great for years like this when we need to maximize photosynthesis. The concern is will we have the degree days to fully ripen our Bordeaux varietals.  Summer feels as though it is over, we will be hoping for a long warm autumn.  Anyone who tried to cut corners in the vineyard will be paying the price this year.”

The Large Producer …

“As we near the end of August all things in the vineyard are looking great. Vineyard growth is very lush and green, the vines are growing very well. Verasion is well under way even in some of the later varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The growing season has been challenging with regular rainfall occurrences taking place throughout the summer.

Disease pressure from powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis has been high. Growers have been successful in keeping the vines and the fruit clusters clean and free of disease by using cultural practices such as shoot thinning as well as leaf removal around the grape clusters. Clearing the leaves around the grape clusters reduces potential disease pressure by exposing the fruit to sunlight and allowing light penetration, improves air circulation around the cluster and allows better spray penetration.”

Conclusion? …

You can read into this what you will, but as the rain continues to come in frequent waves our winemakers here in Ontario are truly looking at a very tough harvest.


Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  New & Noteworthy Wines

Big Head 2015 Big Head Red - $20.00 (W)
This is the best bargain at Big Head – a 50% Merlot (fresh), 45% Cabernet Franc (Ripasso-method) and 5% Dornfelder (Appassimento method) … that seems a lot to keep track of already but then it spends 5 months in new American oak resulting in a wine with huge cherry and blackberry notes on the nose – the palate is black raspberry, smoky and spicy along with cherry and blackberry fruit with additions of delightful licorice notes on the finish. It’s a wine that tastes fresh and lively and well worth its price.  Price; $20.00 – Rating: ****

Henry of Pelham 2012 Cuvee Catharines Carte Blanche, Blanc de Blanc - $44.95 (W, L)
Probably one of the best bubbles to come out of the cellar doors at Henry of Pelham – it spends five years on lees made from 100% all-estate Chardonnay which has developed a very leesy, smoky, toasty, biscuity essence that surrounds every aspect of this wine, it also maintains great mousse (bubble) with a creaminess in the mouth and flavours of apple puree, pear and lemon on the long luxurious finish. If these guys were located in France they’d be Henri de Pelham and they’d charge three-times the price for this wine – but we’re lucky they are here in Ontario and we get bargain-priced Champagne-like quality at Ontario sparkling prices.  Price: $44.95 – Rating: **** ½

Honsberger 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve - $55.00 (W)
This 32 month in oak is a 50/50 splitting of two barrels that winemaker Kelly Mason thought would make a great Reserve; so she transferred half of each barrel into a new barrel and waited and extra 12 months (total of 32). Resulting in a very cool climate Franc with all the herbal, smoky nuances that go with it; you’ll also find some fruit complexity with raspberry, cassis, pepper, spice and hints of cinnamon and vanilla creeping in. It’s pricy but with only 25 cases (300 bottles) available it’s a rarity you’ll want to put your hands on.  Price: $55.00 – Rating: ****

Nyarai Cellars 2016 Pinot Gris - $20.95 (O)
I still maintain I’m not a huge Pinot Gris fan, but this Nyarai Cellars version really does hold my attention with its peach, apple and tangerine notes … the latter helps add a slight bitterness to the finish which balances out the sweeter fruit flavours that come before it … the finish is long with a hint of grapefruit zest adding even greater depth.  Price: $20.95 – Rating: ****

Two Sisters 2016 Chardonnay, Unoaked - $39.00 (W)
I appreciate well-made, well-balanced Chardonnay – that’s what I’m looking for. Here winemaker Adam “Peace-man” Pearce nails the aromatics of unoaked Chardonnay with apricot and pineapple taking charge, it’s a sweet nose that leads to a creamy mouthfeel brought about by the light lees ageing – plus there’s lime zest, apricot and peach on the palate that ends dry, almost bitter, which helps to keep every bit of sweetness in check. 70% of this wine is made using Daniel Lenko’s old vines fruit, which you pay a premium for – and they pass those “saving” on to you … not.  Price: $39.00 – Rating: ****

Wayne Gretzky 2015 Chardonnay - $14.95 (W, L)
Lightly oaked with both French and American (just a kiss) yet it still delivers a punch due to that vintage 2015 fruit (which will be overshadowed by 2016 – but I’m getting ahead of myself). Fruit-driven Chardonnay with pear, apple and even a hint of vanilla. Over delivers for its price point.  Price: $14.95 – Rating: ****

Availability legend:  W (Winery) – L (LCBO/Vintages) –  OL (On-Line)

Get Ready for This - Announcement Coming Monday (Sept. 11, 2017) ...

The Weekly Wine Video Series: A Recap of the Latest Videos

The Weekly Wine Videos
Every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

Weekly Ontario Wine Videos

Video #239 - Malivoire 2015 Forgotten Row Chardonnay (Niagara)
Video #238 - Colaneri Estate 2013 Insieme (Niagara)
Video #237 - 2027 Cellars 2014 Chardonnay (Niagara)
Video #236 - Adamo Estate 2014 Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard (Niagara)


National & International Wines Series ... 

KWV 2013 The Mentors Shiraz (South Africa)
Col Solare 2013 Red (Washington)
Cantina Sociale di Barletta 2016 Malache (Italy)
Stonestreet 2014 Chardonnay (California)

Subscribe to the YouTube channel by clicking here

Ontario Wine Updates Re-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds


Taste it Again:  Vineland 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon - non-VQA
Taste it Again/ Lost & Found:  Best Day of Football ... Really?


From the Cellar (blog)
When it’s not an Ontario wine, here’s what I’m pulling out of the cellar
New Posts Added


PODCAST:  Two Guys Talking Wine ... NOW WEEKLY
Join me and my co-host Andre Proulx as we discuss all things wine, and sometimes we're not afraid to go off topic
Episode 57: Talkin' with Miguel Torres Jr
Episode 56: Talkin' with Jim Warren (Legacy #6)
Episode 55: Talkin' Sweet on Sweet
Episode 54: Talkin' i4C Wrap-Up


Vintages Release (blog)
Saturday September 2, 2017 - See it Here
Saturday August 19, 2017 - See it Here

OntarioWineReview’s bi-weekly newsletter is devoted to the love, enjoyment and promotion of the wines of Ontario and the wineries that make them.

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