2008 was a tough vintage in Ontario: a rainy spring and early summer and, after a bit of a sunny reprieve in July and August, more grey and rainy weather for most of the fall. Obtaining full ripeness and balance in red wines, even for the early ripening pinot noir, was by no means a given. In that context, the 2008 Estate Bottled Pinot Noir is a remarkably successful wine. Released early this fall, three full years after being harvested, it has had time to round itself out, smoothing out what remains a relatively tightly-wound, cool-climate pinot. With no reserve bottlings made in 2008, Château des Charmes included grapes from its oldest plantings, dating back as far as 1984, giving a bit of a boost to this bottling, which shows expressive red cherry notes, with touches of spice and a bit of oak. There is significant acid in there, but also a smooth texture and enough fruit to ensure a pleasant, food-friendly wine. At $15, it is rare, in any country and vintage, to find a varietally-correct, balanced pinot like this one. Great value that could last a few years in the cellar, even. Recommended. RC

WHO: Château des Charmes
WHERE: Niagara, Ontario (Canada)
WHEN: 2008
WHAT: Pinot Noir
HOW MUCH: $15 (media sample)