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waters on wine

Picking bins spread out for harvest of the organic pinot noir grapes grown on The Farm in west St. Catharines.Courtesy of the Neudorf Family

In the 1990s, wine lovers looking for some of Niagara’s best bottles needed to attend open houses held at 13th Street Winery, Lailey Vineyards, Malivoire, Marynissen and Thirty Bench. Anyone with designs on getting some of Gunther Funk’s pinot from 13th Street or Derek Barnett’s syrah from Lailey planned to get to the winery early. With only 600 bottles produced in some instances, there wasn’t much to go around.

Production levels – and consistency – of quality wines from across the region has increased since then. There are terrific wines of every colour and style to satisfy demand. But a new wave of family-operated boutique wineries in the region have embraced events as well as online sales to market their fine wines without having to run a conventional retail shop or tasting room.

The Farm in west St. Catharines organizes an annual house party to sell the critically acclaimed pinot noirs produced from its organic vineyard (as well as sites in Niagara). Registered guests taste and shop for the latest releases and, possibly, even take a dip in the pool while enjoying the Neudorf family’s hospitality.

The once-a-year event was the best sales option – given that Peter and Dora Neudorf live on the 10-acre property, which was planted with pinot noir vines in 2000. “A tasting room is not a reality,” says Erika Neudorf, who drew inspiration from a similar event she attended at the family-operated boutique Noon Winery in South Australia’s McLaren Vale.

This is fifth year that the Neudorfs will welcome guests, and the 400 spots filled up in less than an hour. Online sales of a chardonnay and three pinot noirs will open to the winery mailing list Aug. 1, with inventory set aside for the Aug. 15 event and restaurant accounts. More details are available at farmwines.ca, including an updated list of restaurants and bottle shops in Ontario that stock products.

Online orders are the only option for consumers to secure some of On Seven’s tiny production of top-flight chardonnay from its Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyard.

Owners Vittorio and Sula De Stefano purchased the seven-acre site on Line 3 in 2009 and methodically planned their organically farmed vineyard with consultant Peter Gamble. The couple waited two years to get the specific type of chardonnay vines they wanted, putting them into the ground in 2014. It took eight years before they were able to produce their first vintage: 107 cases of 12 bottles of a wine called the Pursuit. Such perseverance has been rewarded with some of Canada’s most exciting wines.

This year, 82 cases of the Pursuit and 31 cases of the flagship chardonnay, the Devotion, also from the 2018 vintage, will be distributed on Aug. 22. Wine lovers are asked to contact the winery to get on the allocation list through onsevenwinery.com.

Some favourite selections from the Farm and On Seven’s forthcoming releases are featured in this week’s reviews. There are also some summery whites and rosé to enjoy in the days ahead.

Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2020 (United States), PRICE: $19.95

Rating:89 /100

Bonny Doon’s popular rosé blends together a mix of six different grape varieties, red and white, from California’s Central Coast region to produce this dry and elegant rosé. Its vibrant character is nicely rounded out by some spicy notes on the finish that contribute to the refreshment factor. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, $22.95 in Quebec.

Berne Inspiration Rosé 2020, PRICE: $23.95

Rating:91 /100

Produced at the Château de Berne estate in Provence, this refreshing pink wine offers appealing fragrance and flavours of red berries with herbal, spice and floral notes. Bright acidity and a smooth, round texture make for a nicely balanced and easy to appreciate rosé. Drink now to 2022. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta.

Casal di Serra Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2019 (Italy), PRICE: $17.95

Rating:88 /100

Produced at Umani Ronchi’s Casal di Serra Montecarotto vineyard in Marche, this fresh and inviting white wine is made entirely from organic verdicchio grapes. The mix of citrus, nutty and herbal flavours make for a pleasant aperitif or a wine to enjoy with any entrée that would benefit from a squeeze of lemon. Drink now to 2025. Available at the above price in Ontario, $19.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $20 in Quebec.

On Seven Estate Winery The Pursuit Chardonnay (Canada), PRICE: $45

Rating:93 /100

This impressive chardonnay from a small organic vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake is one to watch. There’s terrific balance between the ripe fruit and acidity and a fine brush stroke of oak that leads to a persistent finish. Youthful and engaging, this promises to mature nicely over time. Drink now to 2027. Available direct through onsevenwinery.ca.

Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 2018, PRICE: $34.95

Rating:91 /100

This light and fragrant Mosel riesling is deliciously juicy and easy to appreciate. The wine’s well-rounded acidity and long, lingering finish, which suggests spicy and mineral flavours as well as honeyed fruit flavours, make for an exciting and enjoyable riesling to drink over the next two to five years. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Estate Grown Biodynamic Chardonnay 2020 (Canada), PRICE: $40

Rating:88 /100

Made from Summerhill’s organic and biodynamically certified vineyard, this mellow and creamy chardonnay offers complex apple and custard notes. A blend of chardonnay fermented in tank and barrel, this is an approachable white wine that is rounded out by a slight sweetness. Drink now to 2024. Available direct through summerhill.bc.ca.

The Farm Neudorf Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 (Canada), PRICE: $55

Rating:93 /100

Neudorf Vineyard was originally known as Le Clos Jordanne’s Le Petite Colline, one of Niagara’s most celebrated single vineyard pinot noir releases. The 2018 shows the freshness, fragrance and fine tannins that made those early wines so compelling, with a ripe core of cherry and raspberry fruit that gain complexity from floral and earthy notes. Drink now to 2028. Available direct through thefarmwines.ca.

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