In Niagara (4) more judging, Ravine, Ruffino, Le Clos Jordanne, Flat Rock, Cloudsley, Domaine Queylus, 16 Mile Cellar

Days 4 and 5

Full-on judging on Sunday, followed by a recreational (not work) trip to Ravine Vineyard for a few of us. They make really good wine but they are also a great hospitality venue, and we sat and watched football, drinking beer and eating excellent pizza. We even had a kick around trying to avoid the vines with our long-range passing attempts.

Sunday night had no official scheduling, but most of us headed down to Ruffino’s in Niagara on the Lake. This is a brilliant spot. Owner Ryan Crawford was there looking after us and we ate and drank well. He also has a bottle shop: one of the advantages of the pandemic was that the iron-clad grip on wine sales that the LCBO monopoly had was weakened slightly and restaurants could begin selling wines to take away. There’s a really good selection here. Food is Italian, and many of the ingredients come from Ryan’s own farm.

Monday was the penultimate day of judging, and this was the second round. Rather than work as teams of three, we were in teams of five, looking at all the wines that scored 90 or above in the first round. This is where things get fun.

After judging, we headed out for an evening at Domaine Le Clos Jordanne. This is a brilliant project initially started by Arterra in 2003 with Thomas Bachelder as the winemaker:

The idea was to create a Burgundy style domaine focusing solely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The jewel at the heart of this is Le Clos, a special vineyard on the Jordan bench. It took a pause from 2012 to 2017, but has been resurrected with Thomas once again in charge, assisted by winemaker Philip Brown, who has been working with Thomas since 2017. The domaine now has a domaine – a beautiful new tasting room, hospitality space and winery perched on the Beamsville Bench, with views across the lake to Toronto. It’s a spectacular setting.

Also present and pouring their wines were some other top Niagara wineries. Here are my notes, save for those on Domaine Le Clos Jordanne, which are including in a longer article on the winery based on a visit post-national wine award judging.

Flat Rock

I tasted these wines with owner Ed Madronich. They have long been among Niagara’s best wineries. There’s been a recent winemaking change, and Marlize Beyers is now acting as consultant winemaker (she’s worked here previously, and also at Hidden Bench).

Flat Rock Hexa Pinot Noir 2020 Twenty Mile Bench
This special cuvée isn’t made every vintage. Silky and textured with ripe, sweet black fruits, some earthy notes and hints of spice. Showing nice development, and the ripeness of a warm Niagara vintage, this has appropriate grippy structure and is ageing very well. 94/100

Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2016 Twenty Mile Bench
Fleshy and appealing with spice, pepper and iodine as well as fruit. The palate has good concentration with sweet spices and some sweet strawberry fruit. Developing beautifully. 94/100

Flat Rock Oyster Chardonnay Project No 14 NV
This was a serendipitous wine: the team were tasting base wines for sparkling and thought they’d make an excellent wine for oysters, so they blended together 2018 and 2019 and bottled it. Linear, bright and stony, this is vivid with nice acidity and a lovely mineral edge. Focused and bright with some pithy notes. 93/100

Flat Rock Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2020 Twenty Mile Bench
Textured and fine with sweet pear and white peach fruit, with nice depth and some mid-palate richness. Very expressive in a ripe style. 93/100

Flat Rock Chardonnay 2008 Twenty Mile Bench
12% alcohol. A trip back in time. Notes of toast, marmalade and mandarin. Fresh with nice texture, showing lemon and pear fruit. Very stylish with nice detail. Lovely evolution here. 94/100


One of the up and coming boutique Niagara wineries.

Cloudsley Chardonnay 2022 Twenty Mile Bench
Pear and white peach with lovely definition, and a slight saltiness. Really nice texture and depth: very fine. 93/100

Cloudsley Wingfield Chardonnay 2022 Twenty Mile Bench
Nice definition here with spice, fennel and pear, as well as some white peach. Has a fine spicy framing and plenty of volume in the mouth. 94/100

Cloudsley Foxcroft Chardonnay 2019 Twenty Mile Bench
Amazing reduction on the nose, with focused citrus fruit. The palate has lively pear and citrus with some sweetness, as well as mid-palate richness. Amazing energy on the finish which is really spicy. 94/100

Cloudsley Pinot Noir 2021 Twenty Mile Bench
Fine and fresh with herbal hints and some light red cherries and strawberries. Expressive with nice definition. 92/100

Cloudsley Pinot Noir Hanck Vineyard 2021 Twenty Mile Bench
Elegant, supple and fine grained with nice structure and some fine herby notes. Detailed with nice palate weight. 94/100

Cloudsley Pinot Noir Glen Elgin Vineyard 2018 Twenty Mile Bench
Supple with some iodine and a hint of earth and spice. Juicy and stony with some development. Subtle, refined and lovely with a touch of spice on the finish. 93/100

Domaine Queylus

Kelly Mason, Domaine Queylus

These were tasted with chief winemaker Kelly Mason who is assisted by Brooke Husband, and of late they have been producing some lovely wines.

Queylus Chardonnay Tradition 2020 Niagara Peninsula
Citrus, pear and some peach with notes of aniseed and cherry in the background. Nicely textured with a bit of saltiness. 92/100

Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2020 Niagara Peninsula
Very expressive with lovely sleek, spicy cherry and berry fruit. Has some warmth with nice intensity. Mellow. 93/100

Queylus La Grande Réserve Pinot Noir 2020 Niagara Peninsula
Notes of spice, earth and iodine, with nice concentration. This has ripe berry fruits but also some grippy structure and hints of earth. Compelling stuff. 94/100

Queylus La Grande Réserve Pinot Noir 2020 Niagara Peninsula
Savoury and spicy, and really textural. Shows appealing cherries and plums with a touch of earthiness and some sweet herbal hints. Very stylish and silky. 94/100

Queylus Limited Edition Lakeview Pinot Noir 2020
667 and 115 clones. Concentrated and structured but fine with lovely silky texture. This has finesse and structure with lovely red fruits. There’s so much potential here. 95/100

16 Mile Cellar

Morgan Juniper

Winemaker Morgan Juniper was pouring these wines. They have 17 acres under vine, and make wine from 13 of them (they sell the four acres of Baco Noir). 16 Mile Cellar is located at the 16 Mile Creek at the foot of the bench, near Jordan.

16 Mile Cellar Civility Chardonnay Unfiltered 2018 Creek Shores
Apple and pear here with nice texture. Some peachy richness. Full flavoured with nice soft texture and some fruit sweetness. Shows nice depth. 92/100

16 Mile Cellar Incivility Pinot Noir Unfiltered 2018 Creek Shores
100% whole cluster. Supple and lively with some grip and a bit of development. Cherries and plums, with nice tannic structure. 91/100

16 Mile Cellar Incivility Pinot Noir Single Vineyard 2020 Creek Shores
Stony and mineral with nice supple red cherries and plums. Shows nice elegance. 92/100