When Chateau Niagara quietly opened on West Creek Road in Newfane last year they did so with three unapologetically dry white wines. The wines, made up of a combination of estate grown and purchased fruit were a reflection of what owners Jim & Kathy Baker drank at home and represented how they saw food friendly wines as the calling card of the region.

“We’re making wines that we want to drink that are meant to be enjoyed at the table with friends and family,” says owner and winemaker Jim Baker.

And that they did – their first releases were brightly acidic, clean and appealing to lovers of that style. Their Gewürztraminer quickly became a best seller in the tasting room and a reputation for crisp whites followed.

The Trinity is a new barrel aged Bordeaux Blend on the winery's tasting menu for $23.95.

As the winery recently found it’s footing in the vineyard with its own red varieties of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir their menu has expanded with the addition of two dry reds. On a recent visit I was able to taste the potential the family anticipated when they planted their vines in 2007.

Their 2010 Trinity is a blend of their estate grown Bordeaux varieties that shows the power and ripeness of the vintage. It’s showing dark cherry and black currant fruit with fine-grained tannins and modest structure. This is a red that doesn’t need a disclaimer that its from a new winery in a young NY region – this is simply a new world red.

The 2010 Pinot Noir is a blend of estate-grown grapes and purchased fruit from the Finger Lakes region yet it ultimately reveals a distinctive character that says “Niagara” pinot noir. Once again the warm vintage comes through in its ripe cherry and almost plum-like ripeness. Surprisingly firm tannins lend this pinot a long finish and an overall new world red appeal.

What is Chateau Niagara doing to get the most out of their red grapes in the winery? Well for one they are doing traditional oak aging which isn’t necessarily a given in a young region like Niagara.

Owner Kathy Backer pulls the 2011 Trinity blend from a new Hungarian Oak barrel.

“The 2010’s were in neutral oak with some help from oak staves, but for our most recent vintage we invested in some new Hungarian oak,” says owner Kathy Baker.

“My husband Jim also gave the grapes an extended maceration to add some color and depth.”

The 2011’s I tried out of barrel – Trinity blend and Pinot Noir – were coming along faster than I would have expected. The pinot was brighter and slightly lighter than the 2010 showing fresh bing cherry and raspberry. The Trinity was showing the dark fruit and power I tasted in the 2010 hinting that the winery’s vines have the potential to consistently yield a wine with Bordeaux-like complexity year in and year out.

Before I left Kathy had me taste a red she pulled from a five-gallon carboy – a red blend made from Cabernet Franc, Blaufrankisch and a red grape called Agria. The juice from the Agria grape is naturally red without any color extraction from the grape’s skin and is the reason why it the Hungarians call its blends “Bulls Blood.” The wine was clearly distinctive from the others and all in all pretty damn exciting for this wine geek.

If you’re into reds I highly recommend a stop at Chateau Niagara this season although I can’t guarantee you’ll get a taste of the Bull’s Blood – that’ll probably be limited to the Baker’s own dinner table until they can produce more.