At the Ontario Wine Awards Gala in May, I was persuaded by James Guo (Sales Director) to try some of the new Marynissen wines, particularly their estate wines. The winery has sort-of been reinvented with new ownership. I had not tried any of their wines for sometime, the latest being on a WCO road trip in September 2003. We had some of their remarkable Gewurztraminer 2002 and Merlot 1999. Of course, a lot has happened since then. Here are some notes on the new wines (made by Gordon Robert who had previously been at Stoney Ridge awhile back); wines are only available at the winery or through case orders:
1.Marynissen Estates Pinot Gris 2014 VQA Niagara Lakeshore Kasper Vineyard, $17: I am not a fan of pinot grigio, and I always approach pinot gris (the French name of the grape) with some caution in the New World – for the reason that many wineries use the "gris" form yet produce a "grigio" that is Italian in style. Fear not here. The Gris is definitely in the Alsatian mode, albeit drier (climate changes in France) with plenty of orchard fruit of apples and pears. Body and concentration results from aging on the lees until bottling, with 50% of the new wine being both BF and BA for a short period. With tropical notes showing, this wine is pretty good value at the price. Great as an aperitif or on its own. 13.2% ABV. Silver medal at All Canadians. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Marynissen Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2014 VQA Niagara Lakeshore Kasper Vineyard, $17: I am a fan of Kiwi Savvies, and this wine can go mano a mano with many of them. Expect the MVC of lime, lemon, green peppers, and some grass, with undertones of tropicality. My wife picked out the gooseberries before I did. 12% ABV. The 2013 won a Gold medal at All Canadians; I'd expect this one to do the same. Serve with veggie platter or at vegetarian feasts, or as first course with seafood. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Marynissen Estates Riesling 2013 VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Vineyard, $16: This Riesling was a bit mute and light, with diminished Riesling character. Everything was nuanced, even the typical honey tones. Ontario fruits show (apricots rather than peaches, some apple). Useful as a first course wine, but not on its own. Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Marynissen Estates Quintet 2013 Platinum Series VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake Marynissen Vineyard, $50: this is a white wine blend of one-fifth each Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc, coming in at 13.1% ABV. It can be a stunning wine, but not yet. It has had some oak treatment (16 months in 100% Hungarian oak, heavy fine lees). When I first pulled the cork, I was overwhelmed by the aromas of medium-aged wood tones. But these dissipated and the wine turned into a dry blend of several different characters. In fact, I had chilled the wine as I did the other whites. But I realize that I should not have. The wine is best at a quickly chilled under-room temperature. And this will change as time progresses. I expect the taste profile to evolve. Right now it is sort-of "exotic" fruit with nuances of a whole range of fruit salad. The wood tones will resolve themselves with time. The experts at the winery may decide that the percentage proportions may have to change, depending on the vintage. Still, it is a masterful attempt for a first time. I tasted the wine over three days and it became three different wines. Overall, the wine needs to be cooled not chilled, kept for another two years or so, and used as a main course complex wine to accompany heavy but simple food. The oaking should nicely stand up to any cream sauce. Certainly it would be a waste to just sip the wine on the patio, or even use it as just an aperitif – at this price! Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
5.Marynissen Estates Chardonnay 2013 Platinum Series VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Estate Vineyard, Lot31, $20: an absolute delight, reminiscent of the Stoney Ridge Excellence Chardonnay of 2010 (which later won an LGO Award as best white wine). It has been barrel-fermented and barrel-aged in US, French and Hungarian oak over a period of 16 months, for a wide variety of wood expressions such as toast and smoke. Ontario MVC for local orchard fruit tones and some flintiness. 13.6% ABV. Good price. Do not serve overchilled. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Marynissen Estates Chardonnay 2013 Platinum Series Yeast Strain Series VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Estate Vineyard, Lot31 – Yeast D254
7.Marynissen Estates Chardonnay 2013 Platinum Series Yeast Strain Series VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Estate Vineyard, Lot31 – Yeast Vin2000
8.Marynissen Estates Chardonnay 2013 Platinum Series Yeast Strain Series VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Estate Vineyard, Lot31 – Yeast Vin13
I tasted these wines semi-blind in that I poured and compared all three in numbered glasses according to yeast number order from low to high. All were aged in 500 Litre American oak barrels. Vin13 began with a strong aroma of oak that later resolved. It was succulent with some VA that also blew off. It appeared to be a mix of different styles with some tropicality, almost a fruit salad. D254 had less oak on the nose, showed some European restraint and sophistication with some nuttiness and caramel textures. I liked it the best. Vin2000, which my wife liked best, was more in a New world style, slightly blowsy with whiffs of pineapple and lemon groves. Currently, the wine is priced at $100 for a collection of one bottle of each yeast strain (three bottles total); it comes with special packaging. I do not have an indication of how many packages there are. It seems like a good idea for collectors who can re-visit the wines every two years – load-up and buy several packs! [Reminds me of the Three Guys Pinot Noir package collection from 1995, with Marynissen, Stoney Ridge and Lakeview contributing one bottle each and a fourth bottle being a blend of all three; all the grapes came from the same source, Butler's Grant vineyard, so the only difference was the winemaker's style and yeast]. This Yeast Strain series is not available separately, sold only as a package. The Platinum series has the name of the winemaker (Gordon Robert) on the front label, but just sparse details about the wine on the back label. I think more details should be known, especially since the wines are not yet ready and need more time in the bottle. I re-tasted the wines twice (over three days) and found that they had all improved, especially when not overchilled. Imbibers need to take their time drinking these wines, and meditate over them. Listen to what the wines say.
Quality/Price rating for the package is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures; my fave was D254, my wife's was Vin2000.
9.Marynissen Estates Cabernet Franc 2013 VQA Twenty Mile Bench Fox Vineyard, $18: this is a straight-forward franc with better complexity than most, and well-deserving of its status as a food wine. There are black and blueberries here, as well as herbal peppers. 13.5% ABV. One for food rather than patio sipping. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
10.Marynissen Estates Merlot 2013 VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Estate Vineyard, $17: softly developing flavours that are so typical of a well-placed and well-farmed merlot vine: dark berries, dark plums, and even some coffee-chocolate, 12.5% ABV. Can be sipped or first-course food. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
11.Marynissen Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Platinum Series VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Estate Vineyard, $25: comes from the oldest commercially planted cabernet sauvignon vineyard in Canada. It is a young wine, almost two years old, and with a lot to resolve amongst the complexities of smoke, toast, vanillins, black cherry fruit, cassis, and spices. Currently it is plummy but could turn jammy in age. Very balanced finish. No details about the wine on the back label at all. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
12.Marynissen Estates Syrah 2013 Platinum Series VQA Four Mile Creek Marynissen Estate Vineyard, $35: Much like the Cabernet Sauvignon just reviewed, the Syrah is a young wine, almost two years old, and with a lot to resolve amongst the complexities of toasty smoke, vanillins, raspberry and black fruit, pepper and other spices. Currently it is plummy but could turn jammy with age. Very balanced finish emphasizes smooth tannins with a juicy length. No details about the wine on the back label. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
13.Dusted Valley Boomtown Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Columbia Valley Washington State, +220376, $23.95 Vintages: Washington state cabbies are the most value-driven of all the US cabs. They are consistently overachieving but often underappreciated. They taste "above their raisin'" and are exceptional value. The Boomtown (no relation to the Irish Rats band) with its screw cap and 14.2% ABV, delivers consistent notes of black fruit (cassis, cherry). 6% Merlot and 3% Malbec have been added. It's versatile enough for summer sipping, parties or family meals. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
14.Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010 Estate VQA Short Hills Bench, +395855 Vintages, $24.95: made from Pelham's oldest Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot vineyards. Aged in US and French oak, 40% new for 18 months. An early wine will be slightly tannic but this can be fixed by aeration; I also enjoyed this wine over a week after opening. Needs more aging to appreciate some nuances while tasting, otherwise the wine is useful now so long as it has been paired with traditional food such as roasts or grilled meats and veggies. 13.5% ABV, vinified from heavy cropping and selection, held back four years before release. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
15.Henry of Pelham Family Tree White 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +251116 Vintages, $17.95: another Ontario white wine blend, made from Pelham grapes and from other vineyards in the appellation. 40% estate grown, 40% barrel fermentation and eight months barrel aging (no malolactic). Grapes: chardonnay 60%, viognier 20%, gewurztraminer 11%, and sauvignon blanc 9%. Grapes and their percentages can change year over year; the blend goes well with chicken and as a sipper. Fruity on mid-palate, more lean on the finish. 13% ABV but with a cork closure. A winemaker's wine for summer patios or first course entertaining.
16.Thornbury Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Marlborough NZ, +734798 Vintages Sept 19, $18.95: zesty with lots of citric and green tones (herbs, grass, gooseberry, beans, typical low ripeness). Very much a Kiwi Savvy with minerality and a sense of place in Marlborough. Some juiciness near the end, but basically this is a food wine, great at lunch with salad, sandwich, soup. 13% ABV. Standard screw cap. Well-priced in its category. A medal winner at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2014. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
17.Mare Magnum Mauro Chardonnay 2014 Puglia, +404491 LCBO, $11.50: a new General List entry sure to start a sizzle with its screw cap, slick label design, and 14.5% ABV. The fact that it has won a few awards for previous vintages plus the most recent Citadelles du Vin Gold 2015 (for this vintage) is icing on the cake. It is an all-purpose white, going up against the $15 - 17 California-Latin America-Ontario chardonnays (but priced at a more modest $11.50). It's got that appley-lemon-vanillian off-dry oaky feel – all in perfect balance. It's obviously a winemaker's wine, dominated by balance and usefulness as an aperitif or first course white. Here's a chance for you to save a few dollars if you like the mid-priced chardonnay range. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
18.The ever inventive late Larry Paterson (who is sorely missed) made the best apple cider in Ontario. For years I drank it, as well as cider made from organic windfalls. And I made my own cider. But now I am too lazy, so I buy it. The Ontario Craft Cider Association (OCCA) has an Ontario Craft Cider Pack at some LCBO stores. Priced at $17.95 (x6 473mL cans), the OCCA Pack has ciders currently available at the LCBO. It is a good sampler from among its 19 members – not all have ciders available at the LCBO. But these six do – and all are made with 100% juice of Ontario apples. And according to my notes many were also at the Toronto Festival of Beer at the end of July trying to make an impact.
-Brickworks Ciderhouse, Small Batch: 1904, Toronto, 5.0% ABV. Light carbonation, aromas of fresh heritage orchard cider apples from Georgian Bay and Niagara, all GMO free. Citric finish plus spices suggest apple pies. Portion of profits goes to charities. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
-Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery, Forbidden Wicked Artisanal Cider, Annan, 6.5% ABV. Cold pressed and filtered, pale colour, fresh appley flavours, lemon finish. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
-Small Talk Vineyards, Shiny Apple Cider, Niagara on the Lake, 7.0% ABV. Hot tones from the higher alcohol, but definitely apples, could double as a medium-value sparkling grape wine with its apple-lemon complexity. Producer says made from "shiny" Ontario apples. Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
-Southern Cliff Brands, Pommies Cider Co., Pommies Farmhouse, Caledon, 6.0% ABV. Baked apples dominate and the effervescence is high. Did they use a wooden hand press? Some wood tones. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
-Spirit Tree Estate Cidery, Spirit Tree Draught Cider, Caledon, 6.0% ABV. Natural draught style, not pasteurized (they use a UV glass panel to destroy pathogens, no heat). Some mammal tones usually found in wine from hotter climates, may be a factor of yeast (e.g., saddles). Gives the cider texture and character. My yum-yum fave of the pack. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
-Thornbury Village Cidery Inc., Thornbury Premium Apple Cider, Thornbury, 5.3% ABV. A bit green and lean with some grass orchard fruit notes amongst the fresh apple tones. Finishes balanced and useful for patios and parties. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
19.Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay Village Reserve 2012 VQA Niagara, $30 at Jackson-Triggs winery (+33936 for 2011 at LCBO): very minerally, green apple with a somewhat earthy complexity, modest length on the lemony finish. 13.5% ABV. 16 months barrel aging. Do not overchill. Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
20.Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay Claystone Terrace 2012 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, $40 at Jackson-Triggs Winery: minerals, some rancio plus orchard fruit, especially on the mid-palate. Light oaking evident but stronger om the finish. Soft tannins, 13.5% ABV noticeable on finish.16 months barrel aging. Best under-chilled. Tasted better on second and third days. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
21.Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, $40 at Jackson-Triggs Winery: again, pale through the glass, some nice tones of orchard fruit (apples, pears, peaches) and wood, some rancio. A bit richer than the Village Reserve and Claystone Terrace with fewer citric tones. After the mid-palate, fuller aromatics coast through to a long length. Good value, the best of the lot once price is factored in. 13.9% ABV, 16 months in barrel. Best under-chilled, tasted over three days with little change. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
22.Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, $65 at Jackson-Triggs Winery: the top wine. Like the others, colour was pale, citric aromas were smokey with a bit of rancio (and some marmalade), orchard fruit of apples, peaches and pears. Vanilla tones can dominate and promote creaminess. Longer finish, 14.05% ABV. 16 months in barrel. Still a cool climate chardonnay. Do not over-chill. Tasted over three days, and it got better, so lay it down. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Dean Tudor, Ryerson University Journalism Professor Emeritus
Treasurer, Wine Writers' Circle of Canada
Look it up and you'll remember it; screw it up and you'll never forget it.
Creator of Canada's award-winning wine satire site at http://fauxvoixvincuisine.blogspot.com