Drinking up Niagara, redux

We have been making our way through my Niagara wine purchases from two weeks’ ago with amazing efficiency.

Sort of. We haven’t uncorked any of the reds yet, but we’ve entirely finished our Niagara whites, including a 13th Street Riesling I bought from the LCBO here in Toronto.

I am still scratching my head wondering why I bought a bottle of the 2002 (!) white Equinox at Peninsula Ridge, even though it was marked down from $40 to $25. It tasted good in the glass at the winery is my excuse, but I should have known better. I’m sure it was a fine wine back earlier this decade, but now it is decidedly tired, with hints of rubber on the nose and gaps in the palate that really should not be there. It is (or was) an interesting blend of Chardonnay, Sauvingnon Blanc, and Viognier, still probably available in its 2007 incarnation on restaurant wine lists (though the 2007 has sold out at Vintages, except for a single bottle that theoretically exists at the Main Street LCBO in Hawkesbury, Ont.). It’s made only in really good vintages, and I would suggest looking out for the 2010 version, but the star winemaker at PR, Jean-Pierre Colas, has moved on to 13th Street. According to Gord Stimmell (in the Toronto Star) the new regime at Peninsula Ridge “has really shifted gears under new winemaker Jamie Evans, with a shift from luxury level into affordable wines.” Which I assume is to say they are moving downmarket, so I’m not sure what is going to happen to the Equinox. (Funnily enough, Colas is still described on the winery website as “the man behind the success of Peninsula Ridge”.)

The Peninsula Ridge 2008 Reserve Riesling is considerably better, though I suspect it too benefited to some extent from rose-coloured tasting glasses at the winery, being considerably more impressive on the nose than on the palate. The nose was a very honeyed with tropical fruit notes, with hints of limestone and lemon as well. After that you expect something more on the palate which wasn’t quite there.

I unfortunately passed on the opportunity to pick up a bottle of the 2008 Rusty Shed Chardonnay at Flat Rock, which has received very positive reviews from a number of sources. It’s a full-oak Chard, and correspondingly on the pricier end of moderately priced, and my slight (and J.’s quite pronounced) anti-oaked-white bias led me to go instead with the much less expensive 2008 unoaked “Unplugged” Chard. The latter is a pleasant, well-made wine, with maybe melon on the nose with a hint of floral and minerality as well, following through to a well-balanced palate with a good finish. Well made, just not very interesting on the front end.

Which leaves my most satisfying Niagara white purchase of recent weeks as the 2008 Thirteenth Street “June’s Vineyard” Riesling, which I purchased at the LCBO earlier in the summer after reading a positive review somewhere — maybe Crosariol in the Globe since it seems to have fallen through the cracks at WineAlign. 13th Street makes two Rieslings — one in a more German style with a Rheingau clone in the Funk Vineyard, and this one in a drier more Alsatian style from grapes grown in “June’s Vineyard”. (It’s been a while since I’ve tasted the Funk Vineyard Riesling — I remember it being slightly off-dry, but that may have changed.) We got petrol, limestone, citrus, a hint of honey, and peach or apricot on the nose, with a substantial palate that follows the nose and gives some interesting notes on the finish. It’s still available here and there, with reasonable quantities available at a number of Toronto-Central locations. It looks like the Funk Vineyard is only available at the winery, and it ain’t cheap (about $25). Based on past experience I would guess that’s probably $25 times several well spent, but as I say, I haven’t tasted it recently.