Zoltan Szabo

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Ravine

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By Zoltan Szabo

Ravine Vineyard is the newest Peter Gamble project. Gamble, a former winemaker at Hillebrand and lead consultant in the creation of Stratus Vineyards, is one of the most respected Canadian winemaking personalities. Truly an icon, he was the founding director of Canada's Vintners Quality Alliance and also the person behind Nova Scotia's Benjamin Bridge Winery and their highly anticipated sparkling and aromatic white wines.

Ravine Vineyard is located in the St. David's Bench sub-appellation of Niagara and encompasses about 20 acres of vineyard. With diverse soil types including heavier and well drained sandy gravel and clay, it is the warmest and best ventilated climate in the Peninsula. There were aboriginal artifacts found on the property dating to nomadic settlements in post-glacial times. Lab analysis of the unique soil structure found across the vineyard reflect the long-time geological existence of the path of the rushing Niagara River crossing the property 10,000 years ago, where it met ancient Lake Iroquois.

There are plantings of the three main red Bordeaux varieties as well as Chardonnay and a small plot of Riesling. The wines come in gorgeous packaging; sexy and voluptuous Bordeaux-meets-Burgundy, or rather Rubenesque Loire-style bottles, with an old world feel to the label depicting the picturesque property.

The principals of Ravine Vineyard are the local Harber family, owners of an air purification system manufacturer, who had the brilliant idea of hiring the visionary Peter Gamble. Winemaking is not a "gamble"! Winemaking is art and passion! Mastered by few, certainly by Gamble!

The property also gives space to a bistro-style restaurant and bakery, where my friend, pastry queen Anna Olson's products are showcased and where she will also be conducting cooking classes.

With a “let the fruit shine” approach to oak, very stylish, elegant and well-balanced reds are created here. Fermented in 500 litre new, one-, two- and three-year-old French oak, the wines have an excellent textural component and reasonably low alcohol levels. Please see my notes below.

2007 Cabernet Franc Rosé, Ravine, Niagara Peninsula
Made from Bench fruit coming from the Wismer Vineyard. Bright, cherry candy mixed with dried garden herb aromas. Medium bodied with lots of ripe and implicitly sweet cherry-berry fruit flavours, good acidic spine and medium intensity, well managed oaking and tannins. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

2007 Redcoat, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
"Red Coat or Redcoat is a term often used to refer to a soldier of the historical British Army, because of the colour of the military uniforms formerly worn by the majority of regiments. The uniform of most British soldiers from the late 17th century to the 19th century, (other than artillery, rifles and some cavalry), included a madder red coat or coatee." The small village of St. Davids, where Ravine Vineyards is located was an area of fierce retaliatory fighting at the time of the War of 1812, so that's where the label reference comes from. Bouquet of currants, plum, spice and herbal notes. Medium bodied and juicy with soft tannins, adding complexity. Good value and great choice for restos for a by-the-glass pour.
3 1/2 stars out of 5.

2006 Cabernet Franc, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Elegant and delicate. Red and black fruit and floral aromatics, obvious oak notes and an uncompromising tannic skeleton, but both these elements will integrate soon. Could be really good with 6 months or so of bottle ageing! 4 stars out of 5.

2007 Cabernet Franc, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Much sweeter and riper nose here, fatter palate compared to the 2006 vintage. It is also more complex and tight right now with natural and oak tannins poking out a bit Won't be released for another year + and by then it will round out nicely. I am excited to see and re-taste it again next year. The potential is already here to make superb Cabernet Franc! Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Black currant, deep spice, herbs and polished oak notes on its nose. Medium + bodied with muscular tannic composition. It's far from being released. Looking serious already. Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2006 Merlot, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
It has a great black fruit, spice and herbal definition on both the nose and the palate. Medium + bodied and with approachable tannins. An elegant Merlot - very good...my kind of juice...! 4 stars out of 5.

2007 Merlot, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
300 cases produced only! A sexy beast in the making here! All elements in place, needing time to bond and amalgamate. Hard to judge at this stage, but I'd bet my red Porsche that this will be among the finest Niagara Merlots! Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2007 Merlot Reserve, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
130 cases of this red made. Ooh la la! What a grand texture here! The Petrus of Niagara...!? We'll see... Not yet released, potential score: 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

2007 Reserve Red, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Bordeaux blend. Not too heavy, with perfect weight, tannic and muscle-packed right now, but what a length...! I would call it "Gamble Reserve"...or rather "Do Not Gamble, But Reserve" some of this wine right now...! Take my word! Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2007 Chardonnay, Ravine, Niagara Peninsula
Made from Four Mile Creek fruit, it has the area's signature "tropicality". Medium + bodied with a lovely, creamy texture and plenty of sweet, ripe tropical and white summer fruit flavours and neat mineral notes on its finish. It went trough partial batonage in 1,2 and 3 year old Burgundian oak barrels. A great Chardonnay!
4 stars out of 5.

2007 Chardonnay Reserve, Ravine, Niagara Peninsula
800 bottles made! A lot more depth here compared to the generic 2007 Chardonnay. Very long, persistent finish. Well done! ...And I love it!
4 + stars out of 5.

2006 Riesling, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Fairly aromatic with accents of apples, white blossoms and ginger, fresh herbs, verbena (?). Tasty, sweet (25 gr./liter sugar here) and juicy with pleasantly tart acidity. 10% alcohol only. A little botrytis adding some weight and a great mouthfeel. An interesting Riesling for the novice wine drinker and the connoisseur alike. 4 stars out of 5.

2007 Riesling, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Similar aromas and flavours as the 2006, but with intriguing tea, honey and slate-mineral notes in addition. There's just enough acidity here and 7.3 % alcohol only. It's the botrytis effect kickin' up things a notch here and making this Riesling somewhat unique. 4 + stars out of 5.




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