When it is a balmy seventeen degrees C ( 63 F) outside, the sun is beaming down and it’s mid November, I should be arduously working in my yard, raking leaves and turning over the soil. On the other hand, my garden can wait; a quick spin down the road to check out a few wineries has way more appeal, especially as the new location of 13th Street Winery is barely a five minute drive from my home.
Although the bulk of the wines are still fermented at the old location on “13th” Street, the new tasting room has a satellite production facility, thus appeasing one of many government regulations that declare a winery can only operate a retail tasting room if the said room is attached to a winery.
Whitty Farms, a Niagara benchmark for local produce since 1908, joined forces with the winery in 2007. The new facility, the old Whitty farmhouse, has been completely refurbished and is now a pristine tasting room complete with an interior art gallery and sculpture garden, as one can wander outside and enjoy the collection of sculptures from Hungarian-Canadian artist Karoly Veress.
For the visitor, the entire portfolio of the winery is available for tasting (Find 13th Street Wines) and on such a splendid afternoon, a little drop of bubbly seemed fitting.
The Cuvee 13 Rose 2006, methode traditionelle, is a blend of fifty five percent Pinot and forty five percent Chardonnay. The bottles sat on their lees for twenty four months before being aged for an additional ten months after disgorging. It is crisp and lively showing flavours of red berry with a lovely creamy mousse. Well priced at $25.00.
The 2004 Premier Cuvee Brut is a bolder fuller wine with sixty percent Pinot and forty percent Chardonnay. Three years on the lees renders a toasty bread flavoured wine that delivers wonderful flavour of red currant, baked apple and citrus on the mid palate. Both sparklers are lovely wines and at $28.00, the Premier bottle is well worth forking out the extra three bucks.
I quickly tasted through the array of crisp and steely Rieslings. The Funk Vineyard, located next to the old location has vines going back to the mid seventies. The 2007, despite the heat displays a perfect level of acidity that shines with green apple fruit and a discernable mineral note. Price is $24.00. The 2008 “Old Vine” Funk, although lighter in texture, exudes way more aromatics on the nose, featuring a lovely meld of lemon grass, candied lime zest and mineral.
Late Harvest Riesling can be a wonderful thing and the 2008 Thirteen Degrees Below Riesling is a rendition that personifies the point. It was harvested from June’s Vineyard during some severely cold nights this past January; the must came in at 30 degrees brix. Although surely cold enough to harvest ice wine grapes, the minimum sugar count for the latter is 35. The fermentation was halted once the juice had 98 grams per litre of fermentable sugars remaining. The resulting wine has gorgeous aromas of honey, raisin, lime leaf and candied citrus with a non cloying texture and beautiful finish of tangerine and citrusy acids. Ice wine is expensive. This is not, at $19.00 for a 375 ml bottle, I will take this over ice wine any day.
Never being a fan of Beaujolais, the hype of Nouveau Beaujolais perplexes me, I question why would I want to pay $26.00 for an Ontario Gamay? Simple, the Gamay Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2007 is seriously good juice. Full of black cherry, dark fruit, star anise, mineral and violets, it has a power packed palate, with a touch of tannin and just a note of deftly administered oak. Aged twelve months in French oak, thirty five percent of which was new. Unlike most Beaujolais, this will need time to show its best.
The other reds from 2007 at 13th Street are equally impressive. The Cabernet Sauvignon ($28.00) reached perfect maturity, a rarity in many vintages. It is sourced from the Lakeshore Farm, Funk and June’s vineyards in the VQA appellation of Creek Shores, a region almost totally surrounded by water. Lake Ontario is to the north, Twelve Mile Creek to the east, Twenty Mile Creek and Jordan Harbour to the west. The wine displays a layer of cassis on the nose, with blackberry, mineral and cedar. It went through the same oak treatment as the Gamay. It needs time to show its best, but right now it is delicious.
This is one of many wineries in the “Bench” area that is making serious stuff. The winery is a little off the regular wine route (highway 81), but well worth the two minute detour.