Drinking up Niagara

We’ve now had a chance to sample (er, consume) most of the wines we bought in Niagara on the Labour Day weekend.

We liked all the Niagara College Teaching Winery wines we bought, without falling in love with any of them. They all struck us (perhaps predictably, in retrospect) as somewhat textbooky, good examples of what they’re supposed to be without being really interesting. We seem to have managed to consume both bottles of the 2006 Chardonnay without taking notes on either one of them. The 2006 Pinot Noir was more memorable: intense cherry-raspberry “Pinot Noir” fruit with notes of cedar and sandalwood. No terroir to speak of, though, and a sense of inflated body — “alcohol that is not very integrated” as J. put it. Not very interesting but decent value for Pinot at $15.95. I thought the best of the three was the Cabernet Franc from the warm 2005 vintage — nose of dried prune with toast and oak and plumminess. Good example of a new-world style Cabernet — doesn’t disintegrate with air, has good tannin. J. thought too much oak, not much fruit, and not much enjoyment.  I don’t think we’d go out out of our way to look for NCT but they are all very reasonable wines and decent value for money.

We’ve now tried both our Black Paw and Red Paw 2006 Cabernet Francs from Coyote’s Run. Unfortunately the Red Paw struck us both as rather anonymous — more of an ungenerous Pinot Noir than a Cabernet Franc. Still they manage to avoid the cabbage-patch underripe Cab Franc effect and it’s not too oaked for what the juice will bear. Young vines, not so good vintage conditions. Worth another try in a better year. Contrary to expectations we liked the the 2006 Black Paw better — cherry, pomegranate, “cabernet spice” and a hint of cedar and toast on the nose. Just a bit more interesting all things considered.

Other Niagara: We’ve had a chance to try both the 2004 Lailey Pinot Noir and the Coyote’s Run 2004 Red Paw which we bought several years ago when we were in Niagara. We liked them both better than the NCT — both well-made wines with red cherry, spiciness, sandalwood and cedar on the nose. We liked the nose of the Coyote’s Run better, while finding the nose on both more impressive than the palate. Usual story — the ideal Pinot for $20-25 simply doesn’t exist. We have another bottle of the Red Paw which we are saving for another few months to see if the oak settles further.

We’ve picked up a number of 2007 whites already from the LCBO. Unfortunately we’re a bit underwhelmed with the standard entry-level Rieslings: both the Cave Spring off-dry and the Pelham Reserve — both excellent in 2006 — are kind of flabby and uninteresting. On the other hand, the 2007 entry-level Peninsula Ridge INOX — a real value at $12.95 at your local LCBO — is excellent: minerals, earth, grassiness, tropical fruit with a hint of citrus. So perhaps avoid the Riesling and go for the unoaked Chards instead this year.