Palate Practice

tasting with intention

A Short but Sweet Cuvée en Route

This past weekend was Cuvée en Route, one of my favourite Niagara wine events.

This past week I was actually quite sick with the worst cold I’ve had in years (I’ve since been diagnosed with bronchitis, ouch!). On reflection it was probably too ambitious to leave my couch and venture to Niagara, but after being cooped up for three days my impatience got the better of me and the foolhardy in me took over. This means that I didn’t make it to as many wineries as last year – only four as opposed to last year’s nine-winery marathon day.

In any event, my friend (and WSET 3 classmate) Wendy and I made the short drive to Niagara ready to taste some wine. We managed to make it to four wineries, all very different from each other, yet all very delicious.

Fielding Estate Winery

Our first stop was Fielding, one of my favourite wineries and one I haven’t been to in at least a year or two. Wendy had never been so I was looking forward to sharing my love of their wines with her.

Our tasting consisted of an unoaked Chardonnay, a Cabernet Merlot and a red blend. All were so delicious and so well-made, and our Fielding pourer was happy to answer our questions and nerd out with us over the three wines.

After their Cuvée tasting I tried one more wine, a Viognier. I don’t see many Viogniers in Niagara so I couldn’t resist. The wine spent 8-9 months in oak, which is a smaller amount of time than usual when aging a wine in oak. This short time gave the wine some complexity and a nice pepperiness but allowed the wine to keep its floral aromas.

After a quick check out from their wine shop it was time to change locations.

Fielding Winery

Malivoire Wine

Our next stop was Malivoire, another place I quite like and one of Wendy’s favourites. We got to chatting with many of their staff who were all too happy to share their love of wine with us.

Now that I’m taking my WSET level 3 I’ve noticed that other wino types seem to take me a bit more seriously and talk to me about the wine in a bit more detail, which is awesome. Achievement unlocked!

Malivoire’s Cuvée tasting consisted of three different Gamays – the 2015 ‘Le Coeur’, the 2015 Small Lot, and the 2015 Courtney. Same grape, two different plots of land, two different ways of making the wine.

The Courtney Gamay came with a great story. Courtney is the name of the woman who owned the land before Malivoire, and the one who sold it to the winery when they first bought it years ago. The actual plot of land that Malivoire has given that name was the site of Courtney’s homestead, which means it’s been less farmed than other plots, making the soil richer. The vines on this plot are pruned back to encourage smaller but more concentrated yields, all of which helps add character and oomph to the wine.

I was a little surprised at how different the wines were from each other! It just goes to show how important both vineyard conditions and winemaking choices are in making the wine. A great reminder going into my WSET exam next month.

Kacaba barrels

Kacaba Vineyards & Winery

I’m pretty sure we had the same person as last year, which was great because he was a big part of why I loved visiting Kacaba so much. This year I found out his name is Mitch and he’s a student at Brock in their winemaking program. He was just as happy to nerd out over the wine as we were, which was a highlight of the day.

Kacaba 2016 Effervescence

As with last year we started with a taste of their sparkling, which they call Effervescence. It’s made in the Charmat method (all in tanks as opposed to the second fermentation happening in the bottle) and they actually send the base wine to nearby Vieni Estates to borrow the use of their tanks for the second fermentation.

After the sparkling it was time for the Cuvée tasting – a vertical of three barrel fermented Chardonnays from 2013, 2014 and 2015. This tasting was fascinating because of their use of oak over the three years.

  • 2013: aged for 10 months in 8 new French oak barrels
  • 2014: aged for 10 months in 8 second-use French oak barrels (the same ones from 2013) plus 8 more new French oak barrels
  • 2015: aged for 10 months in 8 third-use French oak barrels (from 2013) and 8 second-use French barrels (from 2014)

Kacaba Chardonnay vertical

I love the idea of all three of these wines sharing the same barrels, and then getting to taste how the oak dissipates and mellows out on subsequent uses. The 2013 was a big oak bomb but by the time we got to the 2015 the oak was very mellow and faded into the background, leaving the fruit to come forward and truly shine. It was a fascinating tasting.

Sue Ann Staff Estate Winery

Our final stop of the day was a return visit to Sue Ann Staff. Their tasting menu was three Reislings, which excited me because this winery is known for making some stellar Rieslings. Their tasting menu definitely lived up to the reputation – we had three Riesling wines of varying ages that were just so bang on correct for what a Riesling should be. Lots of citrus and floral and the two older wines had that funky, cool petrol thing that Riesling gets when it ages. The oldest one even had some honey on it! It was like a masterclass in what a Riesling should be. Definitely a place to visit if you enjoy a good dry Riesling.

And with that our brief Cuvée adventure was over. By the time we got to Niagara and visited these four places most tasting rooms were closed and my small store of energy had been depleted. So back to the city we went! I’ll just have to save the other places for another visit.

 

As with last year, I’ve written up my full tasting notes if you’re interested.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this detailed report! I’ve been to Niagara so many times ..and yet I’ve not visited any of these wineries!

    • megshannon

      March 30, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      There are SO many great wineries in Niagara, definitely many I’ve never been to either.

      Happy to share my thoughts and experiences with you 🙂

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