By Rick VanSickle

This edition of the Canadian Wine Wire features the latest Niagara wine releases from Vintages, new wines from Niagara’s Flat Rock Cellars and Hester Creek in B.C., plus Cuveé 2020 tickets on sale and an icewine adventure in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

First we have a featured Riesling being released at Vintages stores from Niagara’s Rockway Vineyards in honour of Canadian MLB hall of fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins’ 25th anniversary of his foundation. Beyond the Rockway Riesling, a couple of icewines and a red from Nomad, the Vintages release is the smallest I’ve ever seen.

A Riesling with curve appeal

Canadian wine

Canada wine

Rockway Vineyards Fergie Jenkins Limited Edition Riesling 2017 ($17, 90 points) — Ontario-born Ferguson ‘Fergie’ Jenkins was the first Canadian Cy Young Award winner and the first Canadian inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. This Riesling commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Fergie Jenkins Foundation. The nose on this well-crafted Riesling shows succulent peach, lime, lemon blossom, orange peel and mineral notes. On the palate, the electrifying acidity keeps this nicely balanced between sweet and tart white peach, lemon-lime citrus, apricot, green apple and stony minerality with a clean, fresh, vibrant finish that belies the 16 g/l of RS. Should age beautifully and accentuate those classic mineral notes. Cellar 5+ years.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2017 ($40 for 200 mL)
• Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Vidal Icewine 2017 ($73 for 375 mL)
• Nomad Wanderlust 2016 ($20)

A duo from Flat Rock

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2018 ($18 but $2 off Feb. 2-29, Vintages Essential, 88 points) — This estate Chardonnay is fermented in steel tanks then aged in French oak barrels for 10 months. It has an attractive nose of pear and apple with citrus and light spice notes. It’s clean and crisp on the palate and loaded with stone fruits, citrus and integrated spice notes on the finish.

Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2018 ($16 but $2 off March 1 to March 31, Vintages Essential, 89 points) — A highly perfumed nose of ripe pear, green apple, citrus and wet stone notes. On the palate, there’s tension between the sweet/tart fruit, taut minerality, green apple and lime fruit with beautiful freshness from start to finish.

Four wines from B.C.’s Hester Creek

Hester Creek Character Red 2018 ($19, 88 points) — This is a blend of Golden Mile Bench estate-grown Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Malbec with light oak aging. It has a fruity nose of cassis, black currants, anise, licorice, pepper, subtle spice and mocha notes. It’s an approachable red right from the get-go with a range of dark berries, decent structure and lightly spiced with a smooth finish.

Hester Creek Reserve Cabernet Franc Block 3 2017 ($26, 90 points) — Sourced from a specific block of Cabernet Franc from the estate’s old vines, now 50 years old, and aged in French oak for 12 months. It has a lovely and savoury nose of brambly raspberries, cassis, dried tobacco leaf, herbs, plums and elegant spice notes. Classic Cabernet Franc on the palate with savoury herbs, anise, earthy/loam notes, red berries, good structure, firm tannins and lifted by bright acidity through the finish. Can cellar 5+ years to further integrate all the moving parts.

Hester Creek Merlot Block 2 2017 ($26, 90 points) — Sourced from the oldest Merlot block on the estate’s Golden Mile Bench, the nose shows dark cherries, earth, forest berries, plums and spice notes. It’s a bold and expressive on the palate with a range of red berries, touch of plum and cassis, elegant spice notes, polished tannins and bright acidity on the finish to keep it all together. Can cellar 4+ years.

Hester Creek Late Harvest Pinot Blanc 2018 ($17 for 375 mL, 89 points) — This unique, off-dry dessert wine, sourced from estate Pinot Blanc grapes planted in 1968, has a ripe nose of nectarines, peach pie, apricots and baked apple notes. There’s a pleasing wild honey-sweetness on the palate that works with the range of ripe orchard fruits and bright acidity. A not-too-sweet treat that would pair well with blue-veined cheeses.

Cuveé 2020 tickets on sale now

Mark your calendar for Cuveé 2010 — the largest and longest standing event of its kind in Canada.

Cuvée Grand Tasting: Saturday April 25
Cuvée en Route: April 24-26

Scotiabank Convention Centre, Niagara Falls

Proceeds support student scholarships as well as research programs that support the grape and wine industry.

Early Bird tickets close Jan. 31. $175 — early bird ticket rate for the Grand Tasting plus the Cuvée en Route program runs the entire weekend of Cuvée April 24-26. $30 – Cuvée en Route ticket rate

For more information on Cuveé 2020, go here

We are Canadian!

Hard to imagine anything more Canadian than sipping icewine, the nectar of the gods, on a snowy wintery day along the main drag of Niagara’s prettiest town, Niagara-on-the-Lake. But there we were, with our pup Maisy in tow, on historic Queen Street, which was transformed into a winter wonderland for wine country’s annual icewine celebration with culinary creations, music and sparkling ice sculptures all contained within the Icewine Village.

The weather was perfect for hopping from tent to tent to sip a wide range of styles of Canada’s famous icewines — Riesling, Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon — from wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

There’s one more weekend to get down there and experience this wonderful Canadian event — Jan. 25-26.

In the meantime, here are some photos we took of this past weekend.




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