Porc au Pruneaux with Chateau Niagara


Wine Social Media Connections
I’ve not met Jim Baker in person, though our paths have crossed on many occasions in wine social media. Jim noticed that one of my interests is under-the-radar wineries and individuals who courageously go their own way. Jim offered to send me a couple bottles of Chateau Niagara wines to try and I couldn’t resist!

Niagara Wine Region and Chateau Niagara
On a big map of New York state, Chateau Niagara looks pretty close to the Finger Lakes wine region, but it is actually in an entirely different environment in terms of both soil and climate. I asked Jim about the region and he provided such a nice explanation, I’m going to just post it here:

“We are on the Niagara Lake Plain, which is a physical feature that extends from the Niagara Escarpment out to the shores of Lake Ontario. The escarpment is the physical feature that forms Niagara Falls, and is a 250 foot step change in the land surface. It runs well into Canada, up to the Bruce peninsula and East of us through Rochester NY. At first glance you would easily mistake it for a fault, with the amount of exposed rock and rapid elevation change. Instead it is the ancient shoreline of glacial Lake Iroquois, formed by the last ice age and drained by the St Lawrence, forming the present day Lake Ontario. These two features, the Escarpment and Lake Ontario, create a tremendous potential for all kinds of fruit growing. Lake Ontario tends to moderate the climate and the Escarpment captures the temperature effects in the air in between them.

Our property is a small knoll with sand and gravel soils. These soils can be very well drained provided there is an outlet. We are on the banks of 18 mile creek, situated 18 miles from the mouth of the Niagara river, hence the name, so we have an immediate drainage to this tremendous fishing water body. It is down about 50 feet from the surrounding land assuring good water and air drainage on nominally flat land. This is all in common with the Niagara Peninsula, just across the river from us, where there the bulk of Ontario Canada’s wineries.”
Jim and Kathy Baker are a husband and wife team running this small winery, producing about 800 cases annually, consisting of about 40% whites and 60% reds. Since 2006 they have farmed vitis vinifera wine grapes on 31 acres. They grow a wide variety of grapes including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and  Blaufrankish as well as some exotic varieties- Saperavi and Turan. In addition to all that, Jim works as an aerospace R&D engineer, and he’s looking forward to retiring and spending all his time focusing on the winery. One of their unique interests is in lesser known Saperavi which they use to make deep robust dry reds and a special Russian style Kagor dessert wine.

Disclosure: the wines for this post were provided by the winery as samples. All opinions expressed are mine.

Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine 2018 (sample, $18 from the winery, here) 10.5% abv
Jim has this to say about the Riesling Rosine:

“The Riesling Rosine is a fascinating twist on an old favorite, and classic new York wine. It is based on an Appassimento process with a series of changes that create a new process. I named this process Rosine, an homage to the Italians, as it sound Italian (ro-seen-UH), but is actually the German word for raisin. I do dry a portion of grapes to full raisins as part of my process, fairly rapidly in dryers. This creates an incubator for any botrytis cinera that exists on the grapes and helps with aromas and flavors. It is a unique process to us.”

Eye: Clear, pale lemon color.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity aromas of citrus and tropical fruit with definite petrol notes. Lemon, lemon peel, pineapple, honeydew melon. Fruit notes are fresh and bright but ripe.
Mouth: Off-dry with medium intensity flavors which echo the aromas including the citrus, tropical, melon and petrol/rubber hose. Ripe fruits but it’s nice to see and taste that telltale Riesling petrol. High acidity, medium+ body, low alcohol, medium+ finish. The texture is creamy and the medium+ body serves to soften the acidity impression.
Conclusions: Very good quality wine with good typicity, yet showing the unique environment and style of Chateau Niagara. The wine is drinking very nicely right now, but will easily continue to mature for the next 5+ years, as it has the acidity and fruit intensity to do so.

Chateau Niagara Cabernet Franc 2018 (sample, $30 from the winery, here) 14% abv
From Jim Baker at the winery:

“Our Cabernet Franc, which we call the King, is our flagship red. We have nearly perfect conditions for this grape. A long cool growing season, with moderating effects from lake Ontario, gives us about 235 day growing season, which is about 2-3 weeks longer than the Finger Lakes. This makes a huge difference in Cabernet Franc, virtually guarantees us eliminating the methoxypyrazine, Bell Pepper, note that is common. On the other side of the coin, the heat accumulation is small enough to create some great acidity that gives fresh fruit character that we take full advantage of. We consistently do well with this wine and reviewers are often quite surprised by its character.”

Eye: Clear pale ruby.
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity aromas of ripe strawberries, raspberries, cranberries. A bit of clean earth and a dusty impression. A bit of heat on the nose. As Jim mentioned above, I didn’t sense any green pepper aromas (although I personally like just a touch in Cabernet Franc).
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors. Medium+ acidity, medium- tannins. Medium body, high alcohol, medium finish. Flavors follow the nose, with more emphasis on the sweet ripe fruit with just a hint of clean earth.
Conclusions: A very good quality wine, provided a serendipitous pairing with our pork pruneaux – the prunes in the sauce made the fruit in the wine just jump out of the glass. So many pairings are fine, but don’t really elevate the combination of food and wine. It’s fun to stumble across an attention grabbing pairing every so often!

Cabernet Franc and Porc aux Pruneaux
I came across Porc aux Pruneaux (pork with prunes) while searching for a good food pairing for our wines. Wine Enthusiast reports this dish as a Loire Valley classic. There are plum orchards in the same area as well as the vineyards planted to Cabernet Franc. I was a little reluctant, as prunes aren’t exactly a typical ingredient on our American menus! I needn’t have worried, the prune sauce with the pork was a hit. Riesling is a natural with pork, and the Cabernet Franc was a perfect pairing for the meat with the prune sauce. The hydration of the prunes brought back a bit of plum flavor which seemed to bring that same element out of the Cabernet Franc. This Wine Enthusiast recipe is easy to make and you can get prunes at the grocery store, the recipe is posted here .

2 Responses to “Porc au Pruneaux with Chateau Niagara”
  1. I tried Chateau Niagara’s Cab Franc last year, for Cab Franc Day and really enjoyed it. And I love that your pairing included prunes! I cook with them sometimes and find they add a slight sweetness to savory dishes.

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