Sunday, March 03, 2013

Chateau des Charmes - Niagara (CA)

SO, the boys insisted they wanted to go to the indoor pool at the hotel. I don't do indoor pools, unless they are owned by Hollywood stars or internet billionaires, neither of which are on my "close friends" list on Facebook. So with that, I said, fine, I'll go to wine country while you guys swim. An the first one I came upon was Chateau des Charmes.

According to Wikipedia:
There are four official growing regions in the province recognized by the VQA.
The Niagara Peninsula, with the most area under vine and a series of newly recognized sub-appellations, is Canada's largest wine growing region and is blessed by a unique micro-climate facilitated by the interaction of the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario.

In the Niagara Peninsula there are several sub-appellations which each have unique growing conditions suited to different grape varieties. They are: Niagara River, Niagara Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek, St. David's Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Creek Shores, Lincoln Lakeshore, Short Hills Bench, Twenty Mile Bench, Beamsville Bench, Vinemount Ridge, and Niagara Escarpment.

The north shore of Lake Erie, and Pelee Island (in Lake Erie) are more southerly and receive many growing degree days, although Lake Erie freezes over in the winter. In addition Prince Edward County has most recently become a recognized wine growing region in Ontario. Some see the future of wine in "the county" in premium wines produced in the style of Burgundy, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

I spent most of my time in Niagara on the Lake and the smaller benchlands not too far away.

By 1978 Paul Bosc Sr. was convinced the Canadian wine industry needed to adopt the estate winery model, long practiced in established wine regions, in order to re-position itself as a world-class winegrowing region. In partnership with lawyer Rodger Gordon, he founded Château des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake and planted Canada’s first commercial vineyard dedicated exclusively to European vitis vinifera grape varieties. This achievement had long been considered impossible in Canada's climate. He proved the nay-sayers wrong. and it eventually revolutionized the grape and wine industry. Only 10 years after the planting of that pioneering 60-acre vineyard, the Wine Content Act of 1988 banned native grape varieties from table wines.

Paul has always believed in stewardship of the land on which his vineyards were planted. He has been dedicated to the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices in order to produce exceptional quality grapes now and for generations to come.

In 1994 Château des Charmes opened its new state-of-the-art winery and visitor centre. It was immediately hailed as an agri-tourism landmark. It was the first winery in Ontario purpose-built with the visitor in mind. This was long before there was a Wine Route or a winery tourism buisness model. Paul's vision of a world class Niagara wine industry led by high quality estate wineries has reached fruition. Today, the vibrant Ontario industry boasts more than 150 wineries, employs for than 6000 people and receives approximately 1 million visitors each year.

In effect, Mr. Bosc is the Robert Mondavi of impressive accomplishment.

2010 Aligoté St. David's Bench Vineyard - Aligoté is a rare vitis vinifera variety native to the Burgundy region of France. This delicate white wine had fresh green apples and ripe pears on the nose as promised. Fabulous minerality and nice zip at the end. A lovely, lovely wine. One of my instant new favorite white wines.



2010 'Old Vines' Riesling Estate Bottled –I’d never had an Old Vines Riesling before, so I was intrigued. As expected, there was a big mineral component to this wine. Made it stainless steel, it was absolutely dry, despite the nice fruit it had up front. Notes of petrol. Big citrusy Riesling. Very, very nice!



2010 Gamay Noir 'Droit' St. David's Bench Vineyard  - Now, like most of you, I had never heard of Gamay Droit, even though I am a big fan of Gamay, so I was curious. Here’ the winery’s take on this, according Bosc Sr.: In the early ‘80s I was doing routine inspections in the vineyard and noticed a single Gamay Noir vine growing straight up and taller than the others in the block. I was interested in the potential of this vine so we took cuttings and propagated the vine and eventually made wine from these specific grapes. The wine did have some of the classic Gamay characteristics….The wine was different enough from standard Gamay that we thought we actually had a different clone on our hands. Once the genetic testing was done we found out that Canada’s first vinifera vine was born right in our vineyard! We were granted the International Plant Breeders’ rights, a sort of patent, so no one else in the world can grow this vine or make this wine called Gamay Noir ‘Droit’.


This is a lovely light-to-medium-bodied dry red wine with lovely cherry notes and lots of complexity. It was a lovely purple-ish red. And reminded me slightly of Geroges St. Nuit. Soft and spicy, it had lovely fruit with hints of vanilla and lavender. Absolutely fantastic!


2009 Gamay Noir Estate Bottled – This is a lovely stainless steel light-to-medium bodied red. Bright red translucent, floral and spicy. Cherries and other stewed berries, a hint of plum? Nice and spicy. The fruit just lingers. Absolutely wonderful!


And the two side by side were just mesmerizing!!! Some of the best Gamay I have ever had!
The wines at Chateau des Charmes were of the highest quality, and like the great wine houses of the world, there wasn't a weak link as I tasted through their line! But the Aligot and the two Gamays were the standard bearers I will carry with me for a long time. What an incredible joy it was to sample their wines. Incredible!