Bachelder Chardonnay Saunders Vineyard 2010 ($45):
Thomas Bachelder’s quest for terroir continues with a series of chardonnays produced in Oregon, Burgundy and Niagara. This single-vineyard wine from Ontario has the best of both worlds, allowing new world richness to show alongside old world minerality. When pairing, think lobster with drawn butter.
Alvento Aria Nebbiolo 2007 ($30):
Yes Virginia, we do grow the grape of Barolo in Niagara. There’s not much of it around, but what’s made it into this bottle from the 2007 vintage is simply beautiful. Dark red fruits, violets, dried herbs, and mushrooms all play an aromatic role in this lean yet persistently tannic red. This begs for hearty stews, braised oxtail, game, and truffles.
Stratus Sémillon 2009 ($32):
Based on the nose alone, this is one of the more fascinating wines I’ve ever experienced, thanks to its endless layers of aromatic stone fruit, citrus, honey, flowers, cream, and spice. While rare in this region, this late-ripening varietal was harvested in the first week of December and allowed to maturate in second-fill French oak barrels for 600 days. Simple roast chicken preparations or even pork chops and homemade applesauce would complement this home-grown sémillon.
Malivoire Alive Pinot Noir 2009 ($30):
Created from the vintage locals have dubbed "the perfect storm" for pinot noir, where challenging wet summer weather gave way to a generously cool and dry September, this pinot stands out for its energetic fruit, deft balance, and long-lasting, powdery tannins. While infinitely versatile, this pinot would benefit from roasted duck, lamb, or virtually anything with mushrooms.
Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2010 ($16):
Even in a warm vintage, Anthony Road delivers a top-notch riesling as soft spoken as its winemaker, Johannes Rheinhardt. Textured, crisp, complex, and aromatically gifted, this wine is ready to go today and still deserving of a place in your cellar. On the table this wine begs for baked ham, turkey, or even scallops or other shellfish.
Ravines Argetsinger Vineyard Riesling 2009 ($25):
Lightning in a bottle. Not because of its rarity, but rather because it feels like pure electricity on your tongue. Zesty citrus fruits and stony minerality combine to make a wine that satisfies the acid hounds along with traditional dry riesling drinkers. Soft cheeses, cream sauces, pork, and even sausage would play well with the acidity within.
Long Cliff Winery Blauer Himmel 2011:
Made from estate grown blaufrankisch—aka lemberger—grapes on the Niagara Escarpment, this soft red boasts ripe fruit flavors of raspberry, blueberry and a touch of pepper. A touch of sweetness makes this wine a delicious alternative to the sweet reds made from lesser quality hybrid varieties while further making the case that Niagara has something for everyone.
Leonard Oakes Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010 ($19):
Winemaker Jonathan Oakes took advantage of a warm vintage and produced this ripe and ready cabernet franc, which lives up to the red fruit, tobacco, pepper, and graphite expectations of Loire’s primetime red grape. A sub-$20 price tag encourages its attendance at summer BBQs, quiet dinners at home and damn near anywhere you’d want to drink a well-made, balanced, distinctive red wine.
Eveningside Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($20):
While not as rich as the 2010 reserve bottling, this most recent vintage once again shows how elegant Niagara chardonnay can be when it’s grown with care and respected through the barrel-aging process. Creamy while still light and fresh, there’s more than enough stone fruit and citrus showing through its toasty frame. Combine with crab cakes for the ultimate start to any meal.
Arrowhead Spring Winery Reserve Meritage 2008 ($25):
A combination of young vines, a cool vintage and quality winemaking created this solid red Bordeaux-style blend, which makes yet another case for dry reds in Niagara. Dark fruits, currants, spice, and some woodsy aromas contribute to its complexity while firm tannins, chewy fruit flavors and natural acidity unleash a balanced feel and long finish that would shine next to steak au poivre.