A Real Eye Opener
Charles Baker Ivan Vineyard Riesling 2016
Twenty Mile Bench (Niagara), Ontario
$27 - Stratus winery and Farmer’s Markets
Every wine nerd has a “Eureka Moment” wine. Every single one. Just ask any sommelier, any hobbyist, any me and we’ll tell you that there was one wine that opened their eyes to how good wine could be, how it could be intellectual and visceral all at the same time. They remember it exactly: where they were when they tried it, what it tasted like, and that yearning it opened in their soul to know more and drink more and just really dig into wine in a whole new way.
For me, that wine was the 2010 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling.
I was already well into my wine love by that point – I actually tasted it for the first time in a WSET class taught by David Lawrason – but I hadn’t had that moment people spoke of. I knew I liked wine; I knew it was interesting to me in more than a this-tastes-great-and-gets-me-drunk kind of way. Obviously – I was taking classes on the subject. But I hadn’t had my mind blown and I certainly didn’t like Riesling.
But that’s how love works, I guess. You’re just sitting there, when one day, out of the blue, someone (or something) pops out of the woodwork and smacks you in the face (metaphorically, I hope) and you’re smitten.
That’s how it was with me and the Picone. It was glorious – high acid, balanced, full of weird petrol and lemon and minerals and beeswax and honey, so rich and delicious and just so unbelievable that I was blown over. Bang! Just like that, it opened my eyes to how amazing Riesling can be in general and how much I loved wine for its ability to surprise, delight, and satisfy my taste buds intellectually. But at $35 a pop, I couldn’t afford to buy too much at the time (although I think I still have one bottle aging away in my basement because I am nothing if not spendy and hoardy).
Then I learned more about Charles Baker, and found his Ivan Vineyard wines. They’re from another Niagara area vineyard that’s a little less prestigious than the Picone (so they’re a bit more affordable), but just as capable of making delicious wines. And they create delightful, flavourful, living wines that are just a delight to gulp without being any less thoughtful.
And here’s my favourite the thing about Charles Baker: he’s not a traditional winemaker. He’s in marketing. (Me too!) He’s actually the marketing manager at Stratus and one day he decided he wanted to make beautiful Riesling, so he teamed up with his bosses and now they own a little piece of my heart. It’s amazing and inspirational, and it makes me really happy.
So please, do yourself a favour and grab a bottle or two of this wine. I drank it over the weekend at my cottage and it was just perfect as an aperitif while I waited for my chicken to roast, as an after dinner sipper while we waited for fireworks to start, and in the hot tub while we relaxed our worries away.
But I promise, it’ll be just as good with takeout Indian food, a hot summer afternoon, or just a case of the Mondays. It may just even kindle a new love for Riesling.
Nose: Lemon-lime, waxy honey, ripe apples and minerals
Palate: OH BOY! I literally screamed “Oh fuck yes!” on my first sip. It’s so good. The acidity is bright and mouth-watering, but it’s balanced by a touch of residual sugar (it is not sweet though). It’s honeyed orchard fruit with a melon and pineapple side, all dusted in lemon-lime zest (someone please make me this salad). It’s refreshing and moreish, so satisfying and inviting. It’s so light and fresh but so flavourful it’s almost impossible. And it’s also only 11% alcohol so you can drink it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Perfect Riesling, from our very own backyard. Way to go, Charles! And thank you.