Wine Review: 2010 13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling

14 12 2011

Try to ignore the obvious Chap Stick stains on the glass...who proofs these photos anyway??

Since my last Canadian Riesling experience was an earth-shattering one, I figured I would go back to the well tonight and see if I could keep the streak going.  While the previous Riesling I had from my home and native land (the 2010 Tantalus) came from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, this one comes from over 4,000 km eastward, from the Creek Shores sub-region of Niagara, Ontario.  My friend Corey recently toured the vineyards of Niagara and scooped this bottle for me during a visit to 13th Street Winery (social tip:  good friends remember your favourite grape), which is based in St. Catharines, Ontario and has been around for almost 15 years.  The fruit for this single-vineyard Riesling comes from Lincoln, Ontario, which is halfway between St. Catharines and Hamilton and seems like a really strange wine centre until you realize that it’s bordered on the North AND South by heat-reflecting, temperature-moderating Great Lakes.  Since I see way less Niagara wine around in Calgary than Okanagan wine, I was quite eager to see what the other half of the country had to offer in terms of quality Riesling.  Firmly suppressing my Western Alienation, I de-Stelvined the bottle and got to work.

Stelvin Rating: 1.5/10 (Possibly worse than an all-black screwtop is an all-BEIGE one. Seriously?)

…and I found one of the more divergent nose/palate combos I’ve ever come across in awhile in a bottle of wine, neither of which were overly Riesling-y and both of which stood out for different bizarre reasons.  First things first, the 13th Street, like most young Rieslings, was a transparent lemon-green colour in the glass, clear and pale.  Then the fun started.  My first sniff of the wine yielded a sharp rubbery/plastic/permanent marker aroma overlaying tight lime and mineral notes, which in a few minutes opened up into a trio of smells that will probably never again be combined in a wine review:  Hawaiian Punch, menthol and sweat.  The Riesling had the candied, almost artificial, citrus notes of the first, the cool pungency of the second and the briny funkiness of the third (my wife, after some intense deliberation, succinctly summed up this part of the wine’s aroma as “lady’s underarm”)…on the one hand, I admired the complexity, but on the other hand, it was freaking weird.  Even weirder was that the lunacy of the wine’s nose led into a shockingly straightforward palate, which featured all fruit and little else.  Unlike the standard Riesling fruit basket of apples, limes and peaches, this Riesling had a much more tropical bent, tasting of orange, mango, candied lemon, lychee and banana, with a touch of saltiness the only thing interrupting these primary flavours.  Unfortunately, this fruit assault shut off almost completely near the finish, leaving only a faintly sour note in its wake and making me wonder where the luau went.  The wine was fairly light in body, with low (11.5%) alcohol and some noticeable sweetness, but it was critically lacking in the balancing acidity that keeps good off-dry Riesling fresh, precise and compelling:  without this necessary acid presence, the 13th Street came across as flat, even mouth-drying, on the palate, which was my single biggest issue with the bottle.  I don’t mind eccentric and loopy flavours, but acid structure and Riesling go hand in hand, and the lack of this structure made this bottle seem at cross purposes with its varietal.

That isn’t to say that the wine was a trial to drink; with its bright ripe fruit and breezy texture, it was perfectly pleasant…it just wasn’t totally RIESLING.  For someone who dropped a $20 for this bottle at the winery, that might not be too big a deal, but Riesling, especially when made in the off-dry Germanic style, is very, very close to my heart, so I couldn’t help but feel that this wine might be missing a bit of its soul.  I’m by no means giving up on Niagara Riesling as a whole, but I was hoping for something a little more true to form here.

84- points

$15 to $25 CDN

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