In every corner of the winemaking world, some of the best, and which are available only in small quantities, are produced in the “shadows”.
Ontario’s Niagara is no exception to this phenomenon. There are now several “virtual” wineries that produce exceptional wines and for which connoisseurs are willing to pay.
Virtual wineries do not own vineyards, neither do they own costly wineries. They select the grapes they buy, and vinify the fruit in wineries with which they have a cost-sharing agreement. This way, wineries utilize unused capacity, and generate additional income, “virtual” winemakers circumvent time consuming and costly licensing and property taxes.
It is a win-win situation all around for both producers and consumers.
Essentially, “virtual” winemakers are inordinately skilled, emphatically passionate and supremely motivated to find ways to express the best of the region, and talented marketers.
It takes a lot of effort to sell wines that are minimally advertised. Most must be sold through personal effort.
Bachelder, who, to date, has released four chardonnays, has been able to offer all through the Vintages releases.
2027 Cellars, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara peninsula started in 2008 with 100 cases of Riesling from a single vineyard in Vineland. Kevin Panagapka’s objective is to produce 800 cases of chardonnay, pinot noir, and riesling.
I tasted his 2011 vintage Riesling which possesses a subdued nose of lime zest. On the palate, the wine is refreshing, offering apricot and grapefruit flavours. The wine finishes with a lingering and racy taste.
Panagapka now offers a chardonnay, one reisling, and pinot noir.
Thomas Bachelder, of Delaney-Bachelder, Niagara-on-the-Lake, the first winemaker of Le Clos Jordanne, a partnership between Jackson-Triggs, and Boisset, a leading Burgundy wine conglomerate.
He sources his fruit in Burgundy, Oregon, and Niagara Peninsula.
I tasted his Saunders Vineyard Chardonnay, 2010, and found it very expressive of the terroir with great freshness and ample minerality. The wine is elegant, refined, full-bodied and deeply flavoured.
He also produces an Ontario chardonnay, and another single vineyard chardonnay.
His Oregon chardonnay is light, aromatic and elegant, as is his Burgundy chardonnay.
A few bottles of pinot noir will be available next year.
Nyarai Cellars, Jordan belongs to Steve Byfield who is the winemaker of Calamus Winery in Ontario.
He was assistant winemaker at Soutbrook, when the winery was located on the outskirts of Toronto.
His sauvignon blanc shows fine minerality, and an abundance of grassiness typical of the variety. It is intense, rich and elegant.
Nyarai Cellars also makes an excellent viognier, a Bordeaux blend, and a syrah.
Charles baker Wine, Niagara-on-the-Lake
When Charles Baker launched his enterprise in 2005, he was developing the concept from his sojourn with Cave Springs Cellars.
When he started working for Stratus Vineyards and Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, he started purchasing his fruit from Mark Picone. His wines are made by the winemaker of Stratus.
Now, he offers Picone Vineyard Riesling, and Ivan Vineyard Riesling.
I tasted both (2011) vintage and found them equally appealing, with good minerality, citrus and honey notes. Both are dry and very we balanced with an