Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best of Niagara: Red Blends

The blending of Bordeaux varietals and beyond to produce a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts is a popular practice in every New World wine region and Niagara is no different. Sometimes the blending is done to plug a small hole in the facade of the prominent varietal on display or to simply boost the flavour profile and add complexity. However, now and then the art of blending (and it is an art) is the end goal. To carefully construct a wine using the building blocks of different varietals resulting in a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Below are our favourites from the Niagara region organized by price.

$20 and below:

Generation Seven Wines 2009 Red - $14
This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Gamay finds its voice by focusing on the fruit characters of each varietal creating a smorgasbord of berry and dark fruit flavours. No lengthy oak program needed for this fun and easy-drinking wine that offers a spectrum of aromas and flavours framed nicely by soft, smooth tannins and a strong acidic kick. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.
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Fielding Estate Winery 2008 Fireside Red - $16
A red blend from Beamsville bench producer Fielding Estate Winery that offers incredible value for price. A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc the Fireside Red is a little rough around the edges with green tannins. But for the price, this wine delivers great food pairing options for grilled steaks. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

Fielding Estate Winery 2008 Red Conception - $19
A blend of 47% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 14% Pinot Noir, 12% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Red Conception brings with it more complexity and refinement to the table than its baby brother Fireside. The 2008 is a bit harder edged than the sublime 2007 version, but still delivers solid value. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

$30 and below:

Thirty Bench Estate Winery 2008 Red - $24
Dry, but with the sense of sweetness coming from the concentrated blackberry and dark fruits. The nose offers youthful aromas of cassis, dark berries, dark cherry, leather, pencil shavings and oak spice. Treated with a year of aging in French and American oak and full malolactic fermentation. The end result is a lovely wine with silky-smooth tannins and a moderate-plus finish with lingering oak spice. Where to buy: Direct from winery, online and LCBO stores.
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$40 and below:

Lailey Vineyard 2007 Meritage Canadian Oak - $40
A rarity to be sure. This blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in Canadian Oak barriques rather than French or American oak. The Niagara specialty of Cabernet Franc is on show here with round and smooth tannins. If you can't get a hold of this unique wine, pick up the firm's regular Meritage as an excellent consolation price. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

Chateau Des Charmes 2007 Equuleus - $40
From the Niagara-On-The-Lake producer perhaps best known for value wines comes this fantastic Old World-style red blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Refined, smooth and very unique. Delivers complex layers of flavours and aromas. Will age nicely over the next 3-4 years. Pair with roasted meats and prime rib. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.
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Above $40:

Stratus Vineyards 2007 Red - $44
The bone-dry palate with its vibrant, juicy texture offers intense flavours of dark fruits, blueberry, leather, oak and gravel with just a hint of citrus. Bright, ripe tannins are a just tad tight at the moment. We recommend decanting for a few hours if drunk young. This is a fantastic wine that will last a decade or more. Where to buy: Direct from winery, online and LCBO stores. Also available in BC private shops.
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Tawse Wines 2007 Meritage - $58
One of the best red blends in Canada. Supremely smooth and refined. Blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Franc. A wine to place in your cellar and bring out for special occasions - or make the opening of this amazing wine the special occasion. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

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