The iYellow 56 Wines, 1 Summer Solstice Event
On Thursday June 21st, the iYellow Wine Club hosted the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake for the annual iYellow Summer Solstice event, which brought Niagara on the Lake to the City of Toronto for one special evening. The event was held outdoors in the Galleria of the Liberty Market Building in Liberty Village. This unique venue is a roof covered alleyway that offers protection from the elements and easy access to all the great Galleria merchants who opened their doors and participated in the event as well.
Cupcakes, truffles, frozen chocolate covered bananas and takeout boxes filled with fresh pasta flew out the doors of the surrounding Galleria merchants even as souvlakis and sliders were provided in the Galleria itself for the crowd to go along with their wine.
My first taste of wine was from Cattail Creek, who debuted both their new bottle labels and a pair of unreleased wines, their 2011 Estate Serendipity Rosé and their 2001 Estate Chardonnay Musqué. Their rep also gave me an exclusive: Cattail Creek will be releasing a new vintage of Riesling icewine soon! They haven’t made one since way back in 2007.
Next I chatted up a good friend of iYellow’s, Coyote’s Run Director of Marketing Patti Aubrey. She brought with her their new 2010 Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir and 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé. The Red Paw is one of my favourite Ontario Pinot Noirs and Patti confessed to me it’s her own personal favourite as well. Both vintages are unreleased but will be on sale soon at the winery.
Patti informed me that she and her husband John have had a very busy event season this year and that Coyote’s Run will again be participating in the Niagara Cool Climate Chardonnay celebration this coming July. Their 2008 Riesling icewine is currently completely sold out of the LCBO but you can still find some at their beautiful country cottage-style winery out in Niagara on the Lake.
Next, Chateau des Charmes brought their 2010 St. David’s Bench Sauvignon Blanc and their 2010 Paul Bosc Estate Pinot Noir. Despite previous visits to their beautiful French chateau-style winery, this was my first time trying this high-end Pinot Noir and it certainly gave the Coyote’s Run Red Paw a run for its money.
My next stop was at the Ice House table, where these icewine specialists brought their flagship 2006 Vidal icewine as well as their brand-new 2009 Riesling icewine. I actually discovered that the latter existed by accident about a year ago when I visited the Ice House winery on a trip to Niagara and met its owner, founder and winemaker Jaime Macfarlane.
During that visit, I happened to notice a single discreet bottle of unlabelled icewine sitting by a labeling machine as he was chatting with visitors. An unopened roll of wine bottle labels underneath the labelling machine read “2009 Riesling.” Turns out that this was just a test sample bottle for the labeling machine and the icewine wasn’t being sold yet and in fact hadn’t even been announced at the time that I discovered it.
Since then, it has been made available for purchase at the winery. Jaime’s longtime partner and more recently his new wife Karen repped at the table with her son and wowed the large crowd with this beauty of an icewine. She also informed me that there’s been a major change at the winery since I last visited as they’ve built a beautiful new outdoor tasting area and gazebo for visitors to enjoy that iYellow members should feel free to check out on their next visit.
On to Colaneri Estates, where their rep Maria introduced me to their brand new 2011 Allegria, the first white blend that Colaneri has ever made. Colaneri specializes in “appasimiento” style wines which are made with dried grapes which results in a wine with very strong flavours. (You can read all about this winemaking technique in our blog entry on Donald Ziraldo’s seminar with the Ontario Wine Society). The Allegria, which means “merriment” in English, is richer than most white table wines but also very lively and bright. She also brought the Colaneri 2009 Inselme red blend as well.
I next spoke with winemaker Craig McDonald from Hillebrand, who has handled 23 wine vintages all over the world and was Ontario’s 2008 Winemaker of the Year. He brought along Hillebrand’s Trius 2011 Pinot Grigio and 2010 Trius Red blend. The Pinot Grigio was especially ripe and flavorful, and Craig informed me that this year’s unusually warm weather was definitely a contributing factor.
Craig also informed me that all of Niagara on the Lake is enjoying a very warm early vintage, which means both excellent grapes and a lot of backbreaking work for all the Niagara wineries coming from having to harvest much earlier than expected this year. The payoff will be a great vintage and a chance to relax later in the year with a great deal of the needed harvest work having been completed early.
Then it was on to PondView, the youngest and newest winery present at the event at a mere two years old. Repping at the event was Pondview’s owner and founder himself, Lou Puglisi. The Puglisi family are long-time grape and winemakers from Italy who immigrated to Canada in 1965. After decades of growing grapes and selling them to other wineries, Lou and his family finally decided to establish their own winery in 2010. I met Lou and his wife at their winery shortly after it opened on the same trip on which I stopped by the Ice House.
In the short time since, Lou informed me as I sipped on his 2010 Cabernet Franc, the high quality of the wines combined with their beautiful estate has led to a massive increase in visitors to the winery as well as several requests to hold special events such as weddings there. Lou candidly informed me that while he is very happy with these requests, he and his family will take their time easing PondView into hosting special events as the winery is still very new and they will need some additional expertise and staff before they can start tackling them on a regular basis.
My next visit was to yet another friend of iYellow’s, Michael Pillitteri from Riverview Cellars. Accompanying him was an attractive young woman in a bright sundress who turned out to be none other than Riverview’s head winemaker Angela Kasimos. Angela is an incredibly accomplished young winemaker who at the ripe old age of 29 is one of the younger, if not the outright absolute youngest, head winemakers currently working in Niagara on the Lake. Sigh. Yet another sad example of a directionless and ambitionless young person who clearly has no idea of what to do with her life.
Kidding. Don’t let her young age fool you, either — she graduated with a B.Sc. in biochemistry in 2005, graduated again just a year afterwards from Brock University’s Oenology and Viticulture Institute, and then became an assistant winemaker at Riverview when she was just 23 years old.
Angela informed me that Riverview is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and she brought their 2010 Syrah and Riesling with her. The Riesling was excellent, a semi-dry beauty with crisp acidity that can hold its own with any Alsacian or German Riesling wine. They Syrah had lovely fruit flavors with a nice peppery kick on the finish.
From there it was on to visit Michael’s relatives just over at the Pillitteri Estates table, who brought their 2010 “Twenty Three” branded Sauvignon Blanc as well as their brand-new unreleased 2011 Vidal icewine. Twenty Three is Pillitteri’s new line of easy-drinking wines created especially for a newer generation of wine drinker. Three of the six planned wines for the line are currently available at their winery. The Vidal icewine was absolutely fantastic and will be on sale at the winery very soon.
On to Stratus, a premiere biodynamic winery that brought their excellent 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Wildass Rosé wines. Unlike most other Sauvignon Blancs, Stratus ages theirs in oak barrels to give it a richer flavor. The reps informed me they deliberately set out to make a more complex Sauvignon Blanc that differed from what they call the typical New Zealand style of grassy-tasting Sauvignon Blanc.
And there was still even more wine to go around! iYellow members also got to sample exclusive new releases from Lakeview Cellars, Hinterbrook, Innskillin, Jackson-Triggs, Joseph’s, Lailey, Konzelmann, Niagaara College, Palatine Hills, Peller Estates, Ravine, Reif Estates, Southbrook, Stonechurch, and Strewn all throughout the evening.
The event was a smashing success by any measure. Over four hundred iYellow members attended, drinking, eating and socializing to their merry content. Not even a brief spot of rain and high winds could put a damper on the festivities.
iYellow members are encouraged to get away to Niagara on the Lake this summer and visit the many wineries of the area for a special day trip or staycation weekend getaway. You can check out any of the event’s visiting wineries by either going to their individual websites or checking them all out at the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake website at http://wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com.