Henry of Pelham was another winery that made my list for several reasons. First, I had tried several wines over the years that I had really enjoyed. I also liked the fact that this in a family business – the three Speck brothers run the winery. And of the course the last reason – it was another winery that we hadn’t made it to yet despite all the great things I had read and heard about them.
Before we jump into the tour though, a few words about the Cuvée gala we attended the previous night. When Regina from Wine Country Ontario had told us that she had included the tickets with our package, we were elated. I had read about Cuvée before, and everyone refers to it as the “Oscars” of the Ontario Wine Industry. It is rather unique in that the winners are picked by Ontario winemakers themselves. It is quite an event with plenty of great wine and great food – they had invited some of the areas best chefs to set up and provide food during the event. The great smiles from the multiple-award winning winemakers Jeff Innes (Palatine Hills) and Richie Roberts (Fielding Estate Winery) were awesome to witness first hand. If you are interested in more info on Cuvée, see the great coverage here and here, complete award winners listed here. With proceeds from the weekend going to the Niagara Community Foundation – there are more winners than just the wineries and winemakers, making this a great event for the region.
Admittedly it was rather early when we arrived at Henry of Pelham, and there was a little confusion for a few minutes as the tasting room was already busy with Cuvée guests. We had a few minutes to look around the tasting room and have a look at the wines set out for Cuvée weekend (1997, 1999, and 2000 1.5L Bottles of Merlot!!).
Once settled, we were offered a glass of sparkling and the tasting was under way:
Cuvée Catharine Brut: Very tight bubbles that seemed to go on forever. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Brut is ~3 years old (30 months on lees). Light citrus notes on the nose are followed by toast and apples on the palate. Quite dry and similar to champagne, it stays zippy on the tongue. $29.95
2009 Family Tree Red: Before heading over to the cellar, we also sampled the Family Tree Red. A blend of Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Cab Franc, this blend exuded spicy leathery notes above the dark fruit. On the palate was dark cherries, vanilla, chocolate and both cigar box and peppery notes. A great, complex blend for $18.95.
We then headed over to the cellar. It resides underneath a rather large building but we were not prepared for the size once the lights illuminated the rows of barrels. This is one serious cellar, and I have to say that the directional lighting and use of lots of natural wood made this one of the more beautiful cellars we’ve visited. Inside they had a table set up with a special tasting for us.
Here’s what they had selected for us to taste:
2009 Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay: Those that read this blog know that I have a thing for lightly-oaked Chardonnay, and this one did not disappoint. Very fruit forward, the nose and palate were in congruence with apple, flint, light citrus and peach. The oak is present but just enough to add complexity and intrigue with light spice notes. With decent acidity, this had a medium finish with the apple dominating. $35
2008 Speck Family Reserve Riesling: The Reserve label is only used in special years where the conditions and the grapes allow it. This Riesling has great notes of peach and something tropical like pineapple, and light notes of petrol that I love to see in Riesling. The palate hinted at pear and the lemon-lime was a little more present. With a smooth mouthfeel, some cleansing acidity leaves a long mouth-watering finish. $30
2007 Speck Family Reserve Pinot Noir: This Pinot exudes a masculine approach from the nose to the finish. Great sweet spice and cherry notes first hit the nose, with a little earthiness following. As it warmed a little inthe hand I even detected kirsch-like notes, and the alcohol was definitely present (it is 13.7%). On the palate, raspberry and cherry dominate the fruit, and the sweet spice only hints at the moderate tannins that are still present. Given the big fruit and tannins, I think I would hang on to this for a few more years still. $40
2007 Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot: Wow! I use that expression a lot, but this wine was interesting. Fruit filled without being jammy, the nose exudes fruit (raspberry and blackberry) and oak notes on an expressive earthy background. The wine is dry and spicy mid-palate with mocha notes above the delicious fruit. The tannins are a bit drying, the moderate acidity refreshing, and the fruit finish lingers beautifully. Loved this. $50
2007 Baco Noir Reserve: I’ve had a number of the Henry of Pelham’s Reserve Bacos over the years but I don’t recall one ever being this good…so either it has aged nicely or I didn’t appreciate it at the time. The nose of this is so complex – everything from rich deep fruit like blackberries and blueberries – to tar, leather, cedar with notes of menthol and kirsch. The palate is just as complex – juicy ripe fruit, balanced tannins, and great zesty acidity. I was ready for a pizza to match with this one. Lovely at $24.95.
2009 Riesling Icewine: Like a bowl full of juicy peaches and pineapple – the sweet, honied fruit entices.Your palate expects the cloying syrup that the nose implies, but then the fresh acidity of the Riesling comes in and cleanses, leaving lasting notes of lemon lime, encouraging another sip. (I obliged!). Great example of what a balanced icewine should be. $49.95
Already running a bit behind schedule, we still stopped long enough back in the tasting room to quickly sample a 2000 Riesling that we added to our growing list of purchases, and we were off.
Given the ability to accommodate a group, and the beauty of the cellar, I’ll surely be bringing a group back to Henry of Pelham in the future.