At Long Last…Marynissen Estates Wines (and 100 Marks Wines)

Why “At Long Last”? Well I have a friend that has told me for some time that the one winery he visits every time to goes to Niagara is Marynissen. And only Marynissen. I’ve often wondered why someone would drive all the way from Ottawa, and just go to one winery. And I was intent to find out and therefor included Marynissen as the last stop of Day 1 of our Wine Country Ontario tour.

Getting late in the day, we were starting to run into folks heading out to get ready for Cuvée (the awards were starting earlier than the 7PM formal start for the gala). And such was the case with Marynissen winemaker Jeff Hundertmark, who had left the winery already. Fortunately, he left us in the competent hands of his stepson, Grayson Riordon. Grayson just happened to be extremely knowledgeable about everything to do with wine…making him the second “young” person on this trip who had really impressed us with their unbelievable knowledge at such a young age (Nadia Skorupski at Stratus was the other). Grayson explained that he had been working in the industry since he was 14, and had thus been around wine for quite some time despite his youth. He also mentioned that he was trying to get into the Viticulture program (I believe that was what he told us) at Niagara College, and had explained that it is quite a competitive program. Not that we have any influence at all over admissions people but both Debbie and I thought he would make a fine student.

Grayson explained that even though Jeff couldn’t be there, he had left a bottle of his 100 Marks Red for us to taste at the end of the Marynissen tasting. 100 Marks (a play on his last name) is Jeff’s own Virtual Label and his first releases are due out soon.

In Grayson’s capable hands, we were then walked through a great tasting.

2010 Road Block Chardonnay

2010 Road Block Chardonnay ($15): With vines that are 30-35 years old, there’s some history in this wine. A blend of American & French barrels, combined with unoaked juice creates a unique Chardonnay. The oak and buttery notes are very light on the nose, allowing the fruit to dominate. I detected lemon peel notes on a wave of fresh apples and the palate was true to the nose. Yet there is enough oak influence to smooth the acidity that a completely unoaked wine would have. That creamy smooth middle ends with enough acidity to keep the finish crisp and juicy. Absolutely loved this wine!

2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($16): Grayson explained that with the high sugars brought on by the heat of 2010, it was a challenge getting grapes harvested while the acidity was still high. This Sauv Blanc has perfumed, pineapple fruit on the nose – almost as if the fruit was candied. There is something akin to dried rose petals wafting in the background as the wine warms in your hand, and light vanilla notes from the used oak barrels that have minimally influenced the wine. Thankfully, the skillful hands of Jeff have kept this wine crisp and the citrus cleanses the palate on the medium long finish. We shared a bottle of this at a recent family gathering and it disappeared far too quickly.

2010 Summer Solstice White ($15): A blend of 60% Gewürztraminer and 40% Riesling, this wine exhibits the great qualities of both grapes. The perfumed floral nose with lemon lychee notes dominates and the mouthfeel is sweet and silky at first, deceivingly so that one would assume this is quite sweet (in fact it is <1 on the sugar scale). The acidic Riesling keeps the sweetness in check and aids with the long lemon finish. I opened a bottle of this tonight and realized I need to save the other one for June 20th! [caption id="attachment_1266" align="aligncenter" width="199" caption="Winter Solstice Red"][/caption]

2007 Winter Solstice Red ($22): A blend of Merlot/Syrah/Cabernet (52% / 25% / 23% respectively), this juice for this wine spent 364 days in individual oak, from Dec 22, 2007 – Dec 21, 2008. It was then blended into the finished product that oozes dark, rich, fruit, and leathery cedar notes that I’ve learned to call “cigar box”. The wine is incredibly juicy in the mouth with loads of fruit that keeps unraveling nuances missed at first. The finish is long, spicy, and somewhat peppery. As I tried it again I detected slight “terroir” notes – almost a bit of earthiness that reminded me a bit of an aged Italian wine. This will continue to evolve if you can leave it alone for a few more years!

The Marynissen Reds

2007 Cabernet Franc ($29): At 14.3% alcohol, this is a monster wine and the hints of alcohol are present on the nose, albeit in the background. This wine is all fruit (plums and raspberries) and sweet spice notes from the oak on the nose. The palate bursts with the same fruit, including an element of dried fruit like figs or raisins. There’s also dominant chocolate notes and hints of that earthiness in the Solstice Red appear. The tannins are still quite strong and I think this wine will hold for quite some time…or serve it up now with juicy red meat if you can’t wait any longer.

2007 Lot 66 Cabernet Sauvignon ($36): Grayson explained that John Marynissen planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon (Lot 31) for commercial harvest in Canada back in 1978. Although people thought he was crazy, it was his wife’s favourite varietal and amazingly (at the time) it survived and flourished. An amateur winemaker for years, he finally relented to pressure from friends and opened the winery in 1990. Lot 66, from which this wine was made, was planted in 1988 and as a tribute to John (he died in January 2009) this bottle depicts John with his favourite tractor. I believe Grayson said that they no longer owned Lot 66, so this wine is rare indeed. With huge deep rich fruit of blackcurrent and black raspberries, the wine is very fruit forward and has been matched with some pretty heavy tannins which means this wine will hold for a very long time if you want. There is a full, rich mouthfeel and secondary notes of vanilla and caramel show the oak treatment. A treasure to pack away in the cellar.

A Great Lineup

2007 Syrah ($25): With a strong white pepper nose, this wine says “Rhone style Syrah” from the start. The palate gives off luscious, full-bodied blueberry & cassis with earthy, leather notes that speak of terroir. The tannins are there but held in check with the fruit. I would love to pair this with some venison or even elk.

Love the eye-catching labels!

100 Marks Red: Although we had been bowled over with the big reds, I hadn’t taken my mind off the bottle of 100 Marks sitting on the tasting counter. I’ve come to love the care and attention paid to the artisan style wines that are being made at these virtual wineries and have been surprised by all that I have tasted. As Grayson introduced the wine, and explained how Jeff babied this wine, checking on it multiple times a day, my anticipation only grew. With a 90% / 10% blend of Pinot Noir / Gamay, the wine first presents an almost unbelievable red colour that masks the component fruit. The nose gives off bright cherry and sweet spice, and the palate follows with a luscious dark cherry, kirsch and vanilla notes. With palate cleansing acidity, it really is a beautiful wine. I was lucky enough to return home with the opened bottle and had a couple neighbours over to sample it and none of them would believe that it was a Pinot/Gamay blend. At $35, there will definitely be a lineup when this releases later this year.

We saw that there was also some 2002 Merlot available so we added a couple bottles of that to our purchase and we were finally ready to complete Day 1 of the wine tasting tour. I finally understood the reasons why my friend had for years visited Marynissen – the reds were indeed spectacular! I’m just surprised that he hadn’t told me about the whites, for all of the ones we tasted were irresistible as well!

(If you are interested in more details on Marynissen, here’s a few articles you may be interested in: Rick Van Sickle of Wines In Niagara and Tim Appelt of Wine Discovery.)

This entry was posted in Artisan, Experience, Review, Tasting, Uncategorized, Winery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.