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All wine, most of the time

Somewhereness 2013: Southbrook Vineyards

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Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the peninsula’s sunniest and warmest micro-climate (whence, one assumes, the rare focus on Cabernet Sauvignon), Southbrook Vineyards purchased its first 75 acres of land in 2005 and added another 75 in 2008. The estate has been certified organic and biodynamic since 2008 and uses only indigenous yeasts. The sleek, LEED Gold-certified winery building was designed by Jack Diamond, architect of Montreal’s new symphony hall.

Chardonnay 2012, Triomphe, Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA, Southbrook Vineyards ($24.95, Trialto, 12 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay. The pressed juice of the grapes from the Reimer and Gemmrich vineyard was allowed to cool-settle for 12 hours, then racked into stainless steel tanks for spontaneous fermentation and ageing on the lees. Meanwhile, Southbrook Estate grapes were whole-cluster pressed, cool-settled and racked into French oak barrels for spontaneous fermentation and ageing on the lees. Selected barrels were blended with the stainless steel lot, filtered (but not fined) and bottled. Screwcapped. Vegan-compatible. 12.5% ABV.
Lemon, peach, oak spice. A creamy-textured middleweight in the mouth. The bright fruit (apple and stone) is noticeably sweet, a bit more than necessary to take the edge off the lilting acidity. Solid finish whose freshness is tempered by faint caramel. (Buy again? At the Ontario price of $21.95, maybe.)

Winemaker’s White 2011, Whimsy, Niagara Peninsula VQA, Southbrook Vineyards ($34.95, Trialto, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of Chardonnay (58%), Sémillon (27%) and Muscat (15%). Harvested on the same day, the three varieties were combined and pressed. The must was racked into old oak barrels for spontaneous fermentation and maturation. Bottled filtered but unfined. Screwcapped. Vegan-compatible. 13% ABV.
Fragrant nose: preserved lemon, tropical fruit and, a bit incongruously, wool. Fruity (not to excess) and off-dry, the sugar effectively counterbalanced by underlying acidity. The long, browning apple finish gains some citrus pith and a hint of wax. Well made but not really my style. Plus there’s the issue of price: hard to swallow when $35 gets you, say, Huet’s beautiful 2011 Clos du Bourg and a loony in change. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Cabernet Franc 2010, Triomphe, Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA, Southbrook Vineyards ($24.95, Trialto, 12 bottles/case)
Cabernet Franc (85%) and Merlot (15%). Manually harvested. Destemmed then 50% crushed. Spontaneous fermentation in oak vat with a total maceration time of four weeks, followed by pressing, settling and 12 months in barrels. Selected barrels were blended, filtered (but not fined) and bottled. Vegan-compatible. 13% ABV.
Red and black berries, spice and a green tobacco note. Medium-bodied. The sleek fruit is energized by bright acidity, darkened by graphite and ruffled by fine tannins that give this fundamentally supple wine welcome grain and a velvety astringency. Clean finish with lingering spice. (Buy again? Sure.)

Winemaker’s Red 2007, Whimsy, Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA, Southbrook Vineyards ($34.95, Trialto, 12 bottles/case)
No tech info found. Going by other vintages, this is probably a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Evolved, complex, tertiary nose: cassis and black raspberry, underbrush, tobacco and graphite. Medium-bodied, smoothly textured and resolved though not over the hill, with enough acidity to keep the fruit bright and frisky. Round tannins linger into the finish, whose lightly candied fruit intertwines with more savoury flavours. Well made if a little anonymous. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Triomphe, Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA, Southbrook Vineyards ($24.95, Trialto, 12 bottles/case)
No tech info found. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Vegan-compatible, which probably means it’s unfined. 14.1% ABV.
Candied cassis, sawed wood and spice. Medium-bodied. Ripe and fruity. Tart acidity and gritty tannins provide textural/structural interest. Faint tobacco and vanilla scent the long finish. Straightforward, versatile and fun. (Buy again? Sure.)

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Whimsy, Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA, Southbrook Vineyards ($34.95, Trialto, 12 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Manually harvested. Destemmed, 50% crushed, fermented with indigenous yeasts in an oak vat (four weeks’ total maceration time), then pressed, settled and racked into mainly French oak barrels (71% new). After 13 months, the barrels were selected, blended, lightly filtered (but not fined) and bottled. Vegan-compatible. 13.3% ABV.
Appealing set of aromas and flavours: dark fruit, spice, crushed stone, tobacco leaf, discreet oak. Medium-bodied. Polished and evolved, with smooth tannins and acidity. Less fruit-driven and more savoury than the Triomphe, with an added layer of minerals and depth. Long, astringent, earth- and herb-inflected finish. The most Bordeaux-like Ontario wine I’ve tasted. (Buy again? Yes.)

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Written by carswell

November 16, 2013 at 17:56

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