In Niagara, Canada (2) at Two Sisters, tasting wines from Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore

A solid day of judging wine followed by a tasting of Prince Edward County wines and dinner at the Two Sisters Winery in the Niagara River sub appellation.

It was good to be back judging in the National Wine Awards of Canda competition, which is really well organized. 1800 wines this year, with a team of judges gathered from all over Canada, with the exceptions being Evan Goldstein MS from San Francisco and me from London. The panel I was on consisted of table captain Dr Janet Dorozynski (trade commissioner looking after Canadian wines) and Brent Muller (of the excellent Vessel wine store in Victoria, BC). We agreed on most things and judging progressed well.

Then in the evening, we all decamped to Two Sisters, a grand winery in the Niagara Lake sub-appellation, which is at the corner of the Niagara wine region, not far from the Niagara river that’s the border with the USA. They have 60 acres of vines here, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. I had a look at the Merlot block.

Some observations. First, under vine weed control is by herbicide, but they have been experimenting with some mechanical weed control, using the finger weeders. The owners like the vineyard to be tidy, so this makes things tricky if you want to move in a more organic direction.

Second, multiple trunks are used here. This is the warmest part of Niagara, hence the choice of varieties, but it can get very cold in the winter, and this can damage or kill the trunks of the vines. Multipe trunks are both a source of insurance, and also a necessity: every few years the main trunk will experience damage and so it’s necessary to grow up a new one.

The vineyard is looking in very good health. No signs of disease, and flowering is just about finished in this block. There is potentially a high crop load and so plenty of thinning will be needed to get yields into the right place.

This was a typical Niagara mid-growing season day. Around 30 C and humid. The vines start off late here, but when they get going they just grow.

Then we had a tasting of Prince Edward County wines, as well as some wines from Lake Erie North Shore. The former is a cool climate region further up Lake Ontario, with limestone soils (and the limestone is pretty close to the surface). Vines here must either be hilled over during winter, or protected with geotextiles. Lake Eyrie North Shore looks like a large region, but there aren’t many wineries here. Lake Eyrie is a shallow lake so it doesn’t moderate the climate in the same way that Lake Ontario does. Summers are warmer as a result. I only tried a few of these wines. We also had a look at some of the Two Sisters wines, but I did a larger tasting of these last time I was here.

Prince Edward County

Hinterland Les Etoiles 2019 Prince Edward County, Canada
Hinterland are an important winery in the County specializing in sparkling, and this is a blend of estate grown Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Lively and bright with zesty lemony fruit showing great precision. Good acidity, and very sophisticated. 92/100

Hinterland Blanc de Blancs 2019 Prince Edward County, Canada
Lively, tart and bright with stylish lemony fruit. Tart, juicy and linear with a slight salty edge. 93/100

Huff Cuvée Peter 2021 Prince Edward County, Canada
This spends 24 months on lees. Pristine and lively with tart lemony fruit. Nice density here and a subtle, spicy line. Lovely focus. 92/100

Lighthall Pinot Gris 2023 Prince Edward County, Canada
Nice weight and texture: creamy notes under grape and pear fruit with good depth and balance. Satisfying. 91/100

Rosehall Run Rought Cut Skin Fermented Muscat Ottonel 2023 Prince Edward County, Canada
This is a bit different but it works really well. Fruity and very aromatic with pear, peach, spice and some table grape. Lovely richness on the palate but it stays fresh with grapes, pears and some pithy structure. 92/100

Closson Chase Churchside Chardonnay 2021 Prince Edward County, Canada
Bright and lively with bice pear, peach and citrus fruit. Juicy and alive with nice weight in the mouth. 92/100

The Grange Pinot Gris 2023 Prince Edward County, Canada
Lively and bright with appealing pear, spice apple and lemon notes. Fruity and vivid with some grapey richness. Has nice weight. 92/100

The Grange County Pinot Noir 2022 Prince Edward County, Canada
Some lift on the nose, with vibrant cherry fruit and some raspberry brightness. The palate has nice concentration with sweet cherries and plums, and a lively finish. 93/100

Stanners Pinot Noir 2021 Prince Edward County, Canada
11.5% alcohol. Supple, with a green edge to the lively, sappy cherry and berry fruits. Complex and lively with quite a bit of elegance. 92/100

Karlo Estates Estate Pinot Noir 2017 Prince Edward County, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Complex and spicy with some earth and iodine notes, and a lively, spicy quality. Sour cherry and plum on the finish with a nice acid line. 91/100

Closson Chase South Clos Pinot Noir 2021 Prince Edward County, Canada
Elegant and fine with a nice mellow personality. Has ease and elegance with nice spicy structure and real poise. 94/100

Red Tail Gamay Noir 2023 Prince Edward County, Canada
Supple and juicy with nice bright fruit, as well as some green hints, with lively presence. Stony and juicy. 92/100

Two Sisters

Two Sisters Chardonnay 2021 Ontario
This is from the Lenko vineyard planted in 1959, making it possibly the oldest extant vinifera vineyard in the region. But because Brix was lower than 2022, it has to be labelled Ontario, and not Beamsville Bench where the vineyard is. Bright and vivid with nice acidity and some spicy detail. Nice acidity here. 90/100

Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2019 Niagara River
This is from the home vineyard. Chalky and mineral with nice presence. Supple and quite elegant with nice fruit and balancing acidity. Elegant expression of Cabernet Franc. 93/100

North Shore of Lake Erie

Vine Dressers Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2017 VQA South Islands
Dense, gravelly and spicy with some grip and nice intensity. Hints of spice and earth add a savoury edge. But this works really well. 91/100

Muscadere Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2023 Lake Erie North Shore
Bright and focused with a touch of elderflower. Nice weight in the mouth with some chalky notes. Balanced. 90/100

Muscadere Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2021 Lake Erie North Shore
Elegant, fine and sappy with appealing cherries and berries. Lovely fruit here. Refined with fine spicy notes and good balance. 92/100

Finally, dinner in the barrel cellar at Two Sisters