Let’s explore another Niagara winery: Henry of Pelham. You may know the name, but do you know the history?
The winery is family owned and operated by the Speck brothers: Paul, Matthew, and Daniel. When they were kids they helped replant the vineyard with Riesling and Chardonnay for their father and mother, Paul (Sr.) and Bobbi in the mid 80s on the same land granted to their United Empire loyalist ancestor, Nicholas Smith. The original vineyard dated back to Nicholas’ son, Henry, who planted it with local grape varieties and founded a tavern on the site in 1842. He jokingly put Henry of Pelham on his liquor license since Pelham was the name of the road that ran in front of his tavern, as well as the name of the British Prime Minister of that time. Little did he know that the name would stick and become the winery name over a hundred years later. The winery had its first vintage in 1988.
Their vineyards and winery are on the Short Hills Bench sub-appellation of Niagara, which has a perfect environment for grape growing – sloping vineyards to catch the sun, limestone based soil, and good air circulation due to its position on the Escarpment. They focus on still and sparkling wines including Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Baco Noir, and Cabernet-Merlot, along with smaller amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gamay, and Rose.
As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
Henry of Pelham Riesling Estate 2018 ★★★★+ $19.95 (Vintages)
This attractive pale lemon wine exhibits the characteristics of great Riesling. Expect to enjoy lemon and lime peel, grapefruit, and green apple built on a mineral backbone. Add to that an off dry character with great balance and a good, lingering finish to fully paint the picture. Great complement for fried foods, grilled sausage, seafood, pork roast, and all manner of East Asian stir fries.
Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ★★★½ $14.95 (LCBO)
This Sauvignon falls on the fresher style of the wine. Dry and medium bodied, it has a pleasant grassy herbaceousness supported by grapefruit and lemon with a dash of anise. Refreshing to drink before dinner and equally at home with herbed roast salmon, sushi/sashimi, or goat cheese adorned salads.
Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2019 ★★★½ $14.95 (LCBO)
This is a good value for those who like a dry, lighter bodied take on Chardonnay than the bigger warm climate styles. It still has nice citrus fruit, yellow apple, vanilla, and spice notes with just a tip of the hat to some tropical fruit. Savour it with roasted halibut drizzled with olive oil and lemon sea salt or roast chicken/turkey.
Rudi Heinisch Classic Grüner Veltliner 2019 ★★★½ $18.55 on sale (Vintages)
Grüner Veltliner is a little known white wine from Austria that wine lovers need to experience. If you like aromatic whites like Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, it could become your new favourite. This is fresh, dry, and medium bodied displaying juicy lemon, peach, grapefruit peel, green apple, minerals, and white pepper. It’s food friendly; enjoy it with everything from typical Austrian dishes such as schnitzel to mild curries to Thai and Chinese food. One caveat – this wine can’t be found on the LCBO website, but is available at the Bayfield LCBO in Barrie.
Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2019 ★★★½ $15.95 (LCBO)
I haven’t tasted this wine for years and love how the style has evolved. They are hitting the mark on this red, fashioned after a respectable Bordeaux, with relatively smooth tannins and medium body that’s ready to drink. Black and red fruits like blackberry, cherry, and plum predominate with butterscotch, cedar, and smoke in the supporting cast. Sausage, beef, or mushroom dishes would make this wine sparkle.
Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir ★★★½ $16.95 (LCBO)
If you are new to Pinot, this is a good entry level wine that shows ripe red cherry and raspberry fruit as well as some spice, tobacco leaf, and brown sugar toastiness. The tannins are moderate and not very noticeable. This red is your chance to break an old wine rule and pair it with chicken, especially fried chicken.
Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni 2018 ★★★½+ $21.95 (Vintages)
This Italian red qualifies as a Super Tuscan since it has non native Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, as well as the typical local grape, Sangiovese. Darkly hued and medium bodied with high, grippy tannins, it would benefit from an hour in your decanter prior to dinner. Then it will show its black cherry, red & black current, menthol, mint, cedar, and vanilla. Serve it with seared steak or pork chop finished with butter and garlic.
Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère 2019 ★★★★ $17.95 (Vintages)
Carmenère was hidden in Chile’s vineyards for over 150 years and was thought to be an odd variant of Merlot. In fact, it was a virtually extinct French grape that used to be found in Bordeaux. This wine is full bodied and deeply coloured with pronounced aromas of herbs, plum, spice, cherry pie, florals, vanilla bean, and tobacco. The palate adds a developing cedary note and a lingering finish. Try it with beef braised with red wine, thyme, and rosemary.
El Pedrosal Crianza Ribera del Duero 2016 ★★★★+ $19.95 (Vintages)
The Ribera del Duero is slighter warmer region in Spain than Rioja, while the Crianza designation means it has been aged in oak, in this case American and French, for a year along with another year of bottle age prior to release. Dry and full bodied, look for black and red fruits mingled with spicy oak, smoke, violets, and vanilla along with developing complexity demonstrated by leather, cigar box, and blackberry jam. The tannins are high, but not noticeably so with food. Light the BBQ or smoker, and serve this red as the perfect accompaniment for beef, pork, Portobello mushrooms, or eggplant.