I recently visited the Niagara region for the i4C weekend. I arrived early so I could visit a couple of properties on my must-visit list: Lailey Vineyard and Coyote’s Run Estate Winery.
Both properties have built a solid name in a short time and both price their wines attractively: these elements are critically important for building a strong Brand Ontario in the local wine sector.
Since 1970 Lailey has been known as a family grape growing operation and the family only started to release its own wine in 2001. At that time Derek Barnett joined the Lailey team as a business partner and winemaker and he has established a reputation for well-made wines across a diverse array of varietals. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
have become the signature grapes at Lailey, along with selected wines matured in barrels of Canadian oak, made with these varietals.
Lailey wines are small lot production wines that show very good concentration and character. Given the history of the estate these wines are grower wines, but it is evident that Barnett brings his own gifts to the quality fruit he is given.
Despite a busy afternoon in the tasting room I was hosted by a professional and engaging team who patiently showed me the highlights of the Lailey portfolio. The following wines stood out:
Unoaked Chardonnay 2010
Ontario fruit makes some of the most expressive unoaked Chardonnay wines you will find. The Lailey is a benchmark edition: it is subdued on the nose but opens up brightly on the palate with lime, apple, peach, spice and some tropical pineapple notes. The mouth feel is supple, the acid is fresh and the finish is long. This is an exceptional wine at an exceptional price: $16.00 per bottle at the winery or online.
Old Vines Chardonnay 2008
This is a classy and elegant wine with fine fruit/wood balance. The nose displays a delightful combination of perfume, apricot and smoke aromas. The mouth feel is both creamy and juicy with astringent minerals in the background. Flavours of lime, apple, apricot and vanilla lead up to a long, creamy finish. $40.00 per bottle.
Pinot Noir 2009
This wine is made with estate fruit and bought fruit from the Wismer Vineyards in the Twenty Mile Bench zone of Niagara. It has a fresh nose of red berries, spice and smoke. The palate shows intense and concentrated berry fruit with dusty tannins and juicy acid. The mouth feel is complex making this a very appealing wine. Juice and spice linger on the long finish. $25.00 per bottle.
Pinot Noir Canadian Oak 2008
From the outset, Derek Burnett has been an active supporter of the small Canadian Oak project I wrote about in October 2008 (see Canadian Oak, elsewhere on this blogspot). The subject Canadian Oak for wine barrels is found in the Brantford, Ontario area in a small grove of white oak trees. The grain of white oak is extremely tight resulting in limited exposure of the wine to oxygen during the barrel ageing process. This wine is bright, elegant and concentrated with a loads of berry fruit, smoke, green tannins and crisp acidity. This is a distinctive wine, in a very good way. $35.00 per bottle.
We don’t see much Zwiegelt in Ontario so it’s worth tasting when you do run into it. This is a signature red grape of Austria known for its spicy and rich cherry ripeness. Because it ripens early Zwiegelt is a logical grape for Ontario growers. The Lailey version is a varietally correct wine with a spicy, fruit-forward, slightly stemmy nose. The palate is well-balanced and ripe with spice, bright berry and cherry fruit, grainy tannins and a long juicy finish. This is a perfect food wine, for example with burgers, at a burger price – $14.00 per bottle.
If you are of drinking age and live in Ontario, Lailey wines can be purchased online and delivered to your home or office at a very modest cost. The Lailey family also offers an easily-accessed wine club with several options available. Get more information at the Lailey website.
Coyote’s Run is also a family operation, owned by the Aubry family. It commenced operations in 2003 and has made a good name for its wines quickly, aided by a successful focus on gaining several LCBO General List listings. The bulk of the fruit used in Coyote’s Run wines is estate grown with some bought fruit complementing the local fruit.
As the Coyote’s Run journey was launched the Aubry family was new to the wine business and thus was very fortunate when it was able to attract to their team an accomplished winemaker. David Sheppard had been winemaker at Inniskillin for over 2o years when he joined the Aubry team and when his wines started to compete in 2004 they were immediate award winners
These wines are attractive and delicate but don’t show the same depth of intensity or flavour concentration that is the hallmark of Lailey. While many wines are listed on the General List many others are only available at the winery. Online purchases are possible on the Coyote’s Run website.
The Coyote’s Run wines I recommend include the following:
Pinot Blanc 2009
The nose has a delicate candied apple character. The palate is very dry with a creamy feel. Juicy apple, peach and spice dominate the palate. Despite the creamy mouth feel this is a lean-bodied wine – Alsatian in personality. Serve with poached sole. $17.95 per bottle
Red Paw Pinot Noir 2008
The Coyote’s Run property is situated on land that was once the site of Lake Iroquois which means the soil is alluvial and mineral rich. There are two vineyard sites: Red Paw and Black Paw. The Red Paw site is distinct with red Trafalgar clay loam which has rich mineral content but is otherwise quite barren – ideal for grape growing. The Pinot Noir is fruit-forward and slightly rustic in character. The assertive palate is loaded with fruit: apple, raspberry and red cherry. The fruit is complemented with smoke, spice, juicy acid and grainy tannins. This wine is a fine value at $22.95 per bottle.
Red Paw Syrah 2008
This wine is mid-Atlantic in style: a bit of Old World, a bit of New World. It is finely balanced with bright, ripe fruit, juicy acid and ripe tannins. The classic Syrah nose of earth, savoury aromas, pepper spice and smoke leads to a blackberry-driven palate. The palate is medium-bodied and shows the smoke, pepper and smoked meat found on the nose. The finish is long. This is an elegant, approachable wine for early consumption that will be perfect with a platter of charcuterie. $21.95 per bottle.
These are all fine bottles and I encourage readers to buy Ontario.
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.