Riesling is easily one of the signature grapes of Niagara, and it comes in many styles from dry to sweet and great to unfortunately bad… just like all wines produced all over the world. Having spent the last two Vintages 2018/2019 in Alsace, France focusing a large part of the harvests on high end single vineyard Cru Rieslings. The grape has found a home in my heart and takes up the better part of two levels of my wine rack.
Unfortunately, Riesling has received the short end of the stick. Over the past few years the shelves at the LCBO have been flooded with sweet, clunky and unbalanced rieslings – leaving Riesling to receive a bit of a bad wrap. Because of this, they are dismissed quickly for being too sweet and too basic. However, Rieslings in my eyes, when well farmed and well made, have the ability to present such an exciting flavour profile, and a structure that keeps you wanting more.
My current favorite Niagara Riesling is the 2017 Sputnik from Pearl Morissette. Pearl Morissette is a winery who release wines that sell out before you can even blink. Luckily, for those in Ontario, they still have some of this wine available online. The fruit is from Butlers Grant Vineyard which is in the 20 Mile Bench sub-appellation – an area that stretches east to west from Fifteen Mile Creek to just passed Cherry Avenue. All of the fruit was hand-harvested and put into the press in whole cluster form. After pressing, all of the juice from the skins are transferred into large old oak Foudres (which are large oval oak barrels) that are so old they do not actually add the flavour of oak into the wine. They will however, allow for oxygen to slowly seep into the wine during fermentation, encouraging a rounder richer mouth feel. The wine fermented with natural yeasts from the vineyard — think similar to sourdough bread — and is then left to rest on said yeast after fermentation for eight months. The Sputnik is made without the addition of chemicals and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. This wine is unique and delicious, I recommend that you serve it slightly chilled but not too cold… or you might miss the texture. Smells like lemons and apricots come to the forefront and leave a zesty quality that makes your mouth water just from the aroma. There is a big floral aspect to the boquet of the wine that reminds me of white orange blossoms dusted in some sort of winter spice and notes that remind me of a dry hay bales. The palate is filled with ripe stony and citrus fruit. It is rich with a silky thick texture and has an awesome backbone of acidity. A finish that lingers for several minutes and leaves you with a tart and vibrant salinity. The Pearl Morissette Sputnik is a wine to drink today, tomorrow or many years to come.
Wine: 2017 Sputnik Riesling
Winery: Pearl Morissette
Where to buy: pearlmorissette.com
Fun Fact: There are over 100 wineries in Niagara making some sort of expression of Riesling and Riesling is used in %17 of Ontario’s total annual production of wine! (from VQA wines of Ontario)