Let's get right to the point.... I absolutely fell in love with Kew Vineyards 2014 Barrel Aged, Blanc de Blancs on my tasting visit.
The showcase for Kew Vineyards in Beamsville is a lovely period home built by the Kew family on land that was granted to Richard Kew for his military service in the war of 1812. It is now tastefully decorated in French country style and provides an elegant setting for experiencing their wines. Reservation for tasting are encouraged on Kew's official website.
Kew does a beautiful job on their sparkling wines but the 2014 Barrel Aged, Blanc de Blancs absolutely stole my heart that day. Barrel aging in recent years for sparkling wines has fallen away in favour of steel tanks that provide more control over the final product. Apparently Bollinger and Krug still ferment their champagnes in oak barrels. So the 2014 Barrel Aged, Blanc de Blancs may be a labour of love or a return to tradition or both... but it has paid off in spades. Lively and effervescent as you would expect of a sparkling but more so, with a lovely fine mousse. Clean, crisp and lemon-y on the nose and palate. The citrusy biscuits that stay with you on the finish just keeps on delivering. At $29.95 this elegant sparkling could grace any special occasion ... or any day that ends in d-a-y!
The 2013 Fumé Blanc- this was interesting smoky, oaky, taut and toasty. Medium body and weight. This one made me sit up and take notice! I can't wait to savour the one I brought home!
All the sparklings I tasted (which was them all!) had nice structure and balance and lovely fine mousse. Of interest to note is that all the sparklings are priced at $29.95 despite varying from 1 - 6 years on the lees and the barrel aging for the Blanc de Blancs. Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tasting hostess shared that the philosophy at Kew is they want everyone to be able to enjoy all their offerings. I read into that they have averaged the price across all the sparklings to keep them all within reach.
2014 Pinot Meunier, Natural Brut
This sparkling has no dosage. Dosage is specific to sparkling wines where the a mixture of sugar and wine are added to the sparkling wine just before corking. The practice comes from Champagne where due to the cool growing season and the challenge to ripen the grapes, it was deemed necessary to add sugar to help balance the acidity. This Pinot Meunier, one of the three traditional grapes used in Champagne making, spends one year on the lees. To state the obvious - it is dry, very dry (but in a good way) with notes of tart green apple and pear.
2011 Blanc de Noir
Two years on the lees results in a longer finish and some toasty, yeast aromas and apple to the palate.
This Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay blend was a close competitor to my favourite. Lively, clean and smooth on the palate. Nicely structured and well balanced.
This Pinot Noir rosé spent 6 years on the lees. The fine mousse, balance and structure are consistent with what I had come to expect of the Kew sparklings. This one had a bonus of apple and spicy potpourri on the nose. Smooth with a nice mouth feel. This one is robust enough to stand up to some interesting foods -Asian, Indian, potato chips!
Kew has some of the oldest Riesling grapes planted in Niagara, planted in 1975 by the pioneering Mosel winemaker and nurseryman, Hermann Weis himself. Niagara Bench terroir has made riesling the signature grape of many of the wineries in this region.
The 2013 Organic Riesling (16.95) has a distinctly floral nose dominated by Asiatic lilies and is powerful and dry. I personally preferred the 2014 Old Vine Riesling (15.95) which had more body and the diesel and minerality on the nose that I am partial to. It is round and smooth with a nice mouthfeel.
The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (14.95) is an interesting, refreshing wine. Light to medium weight, some grassiness on the nose with gooseberry and grapefruit on the palate. This one could be a great summer sipper well chilled.
2014 Barrel Aged Gamay Noir (17.95) I couldn't decide what this was exactly - heavier than a Beaujolais, oakier than what we expect of a gamay. It was definitely fruity with medium tannins. May be a great BBQ wine.
2013 Pinot Noir (23.95) This was kind of a big wine with a rich, earthy and smoky nose. Dark fruit on the palate, smooth on the palate. Makes me think of filet mignon.
2014 Soldier's Grant Cabernet (19.95) This is an old-style cabernet blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is done in the appassimento style (grapes are dried for a few months to concentrate flavours and sugars). Smoke and leather on the nose, slightly vegetative. Slightly astringent - this was made to go with food. Would marry well with salami, steak.
2012 Heritage (39.95) Another old-world style Cab Franc/Merlot/Cab Sauv blend. Tart cherry and hints of barnyard on the nose. Full bodied with still grippy tannins. Best enjoyed with food.