It’s that time of year again – Cuvée en Route is back! It’s one of the many times each year that I get in the car and make a little pilgrimage to the region in my own backyard. It’s also a welcome way to further my wine knowledge and keep my palate up to snuff.
What is Cuvée en Route?
Let’s review. Created by the good folks at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), Cuvée en Route is an annual showcase of the fantastic wines this region has to offer. On March 23, 24 and 25 wineries throughout the region will create tasting menus (usually 3-4 wines) for passport holders, often share wines you can’t get at a normal tasting. Case in point – my first Cuvée year I had wines from as long ago as 1998! Cuvée is a great opportunity to taste things you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere (or any time) else.
Cuvée adventures in years past
I’ve had the pleasure of attending the last two Cuvée en Routes (despite having bronchitis last year) and it’s become a highlight of my year. It’s such a great opportunity to get to know Niagara and take a chance on wineries you might not think to visit otherwise.
Cuvée can also be accelerate your knowledge of the region. Thirty-ish wineries times 3-4 wines means a lot of tasting, and a lot of familiarity with the grapes and styles that Niagara makes. Even if you only visit a handful of wineries you’ll get a great sense of what Niagara is all about and what they do really well. My tips would be to try and taste any Riesling, Gamay, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc – so many Niagara wineries just knock these wines out of the park.
Oh, and of course, there’s the icewine. Taste it if you get the chance, especially if you’ve never tried it before. It’ll blow your mind!
The game plan for 2018
Some of my stand-bys and favourites are back on the list this year (Fielding, Cave Spring, Malivoire, Kacaba) but there are also a bunch that are new to me. I tend to gravitate toward the Beamsville Bench more than any other sub-region because I like the mineral quality a lot of the wines have, but I think this year I’ll branch out a little, if only to see what I’m missing.
Some tasting menus that pique my interest
- Tasting theme: The Best of the 2014 Vintage (only two wines but they both look good)
- 2014 Reserve Riesling
- 2014 Gravity Pinot Noir
- Tasting theme: Cabernet Franc vertical (Cab Franc + vertical? I’m so down)
- Signature Series Cabernet Franc 2012
- Signature Series Cabernet Franc 2013
- Signature Series Cabernet Franc 2014
- Tasting theme: Kiln-dried (I’m intrigued! You’d better believe I’ll be grilling the Reif folks about how these were made)
- 2009 Kiln Dried Cabernet
- 2015 Kiln Dried Chardonnay
- 2015 Kiln Dried Cabernet
- Tasting theme: Southbrook through time (I’ve been interested in this winery for a while, maybe now’s the time to check them out?)
- 2016 Southbrook Estate Wild Ferment Chardonnay
- 2012 Southbrook Whimsy Minerality Chardonnay
- 2016 Southbrook Triomphe Organic Merlot
- 1998 Southbrook Lailey Vineyard Merlot (age!!)
- Tasting theme: Semillon four ways (I’m down for Semillon all ways)
- 2016 Stratus Semillon
- 2010 Stratus Semillon
- 2016 Stratus White
- 2016 Stratus Semillon, botrytis affected (I love me some noble rot)
Will I make it to these wineries? Will I suffer through the whole thing with bronchitis again? Tune in later this month to find out!