In Niagara, Canada: Peller Estates/Trius

Chief winemaker Craig McDonald

The winery that is currently known as Peller Estates (with its brand, Trius) is now in its third iteration. Back in the 1970s, very early days for the region, it was called Newark Wines. It was then bought by Hillebrand. Then it was sold to the Andrew Peller Group, which has wineries across Canada’s regions. I visited with winemaker Craig McDonald, an expat Aussie.

Peller hold the distinction of being the most visited winery in North America, a fact that may surprise some people. Its proximity to a major city and a global tourism highlight (Niagara Falls) both help. Back in the 1980s they were the largest producers of VQA wine, and they remain so, with 18 000 tons passing through the winery each year. ‘We’re a big company,’ says McDonald, but our wines don’t need to reflect our size.’

Sparkling wine is important here. Under Hillebrand, Peller were the first to invest in traditional method sparkling wines in the 1980s and share with Stellars Jay in BC the title of first winery to release a commercial traditional method sparkler in Canada (in 1989).

‘The biggest advancement in Niagara has been with viticulture rather than winemaking,’ says McDonald. ‘Growers still dominate supply in Ontario.’

One of the advantages of the climate in Niagara is that sugar accumulation takes place alongside the flavour ripeness. ‘You don’t have to worry about Brix here,’ says MacDonald, because it rarely gets ahead of phenolic ripeness (which would result in alcoholic wines). ‘Most Pinot Gris, for example, is picked at 20-21 brix with good flavour,’ he explains.

We tasted quite widely through the more premium Peller wines, and I was impressed. This may be a big company, but they are performing well.

Trius Brut Rosé NV Niagara, Canada
Gamay dosage, 6 g/l sugar. 50% 2014, then the rest a mix of five years of previous vintages. 22 months on lees. This got 97/100 from Decanter! Tight, fresh and crisp with nice citrus and tangerine, as well as strawberry and cherry. Very focused and nicely savoury. Linear and tasty with a bit of pithiness on the finish. 90/100

Trius Brut NV Niagara, Canada
80% of sparkling production. 60% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. 50% 2015 then reserve wines. 8 g/l dosage with barrel fermented Chardonnay and base wine in the liqueur. Bright, fresh and linear with good acidity and a bit of juiciness. The high acidity is well countered by the sweetness. Lovely fruit here with lovely purity. 89/100

Trius Showcase Blanc de Blancs NV (this has just been disgorged after spending four years on the lees)
Single vineyard, blend of three vintages. Very fine, expressive and pure with lovely delicacy. So precise with real intensity and purity. 92/100

Trius Divine White 2016 Niagara, Canada
Juicy, bright, fruity and a bit pithy with a nice citrus core. Clean and appealing. 86/100

Trius Dry Riesling 2016 Niagara, Canada
Juicy and limey with nice intensity and linear citrus fruit. Crisp with good acidity and balance and a little sweetness. 88/100

Trius Viognier 2016 VQA Ontario, Canada
Second crop from five year old vines. Nice texture here: there’s freshness and a citrus core but also some smoothness and an apricot edge. Pure and linear with nice varietal character. Great value. 89/100

Trius Showcase Clean Slate Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Niagara, Canada
Pressed to barrel with some solids with no sulfites (in most years). Puncheons and 225 litre barrels. Exotic and lively with complex peach and pear fruit. Has a lovely herbiness with lots of melon and spice richness, as well as a bit of smoky lemon peel. Warm and complex. 90/100

Trius Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2016 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Stony vineyard; warm site, old creek bed. Dry (but with 20 g/l sugar, 9.7% alcohol), linear and intense with high acidity. Limey and bright with some precision. Juicy, pure, focused and linear with a long limey finish. Has real purity with some sweetness countering the acid. 91/100

Trius Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2013 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Very toasty and bready with some purity to the fruit. Has notes of toast, bread, fine herbs, honey and meal. The citrus and peach fruit is quite delicate. 89/100

Trius Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2016 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Complex, mealy and spicy. Broad with pear and peach fruit. Has nice texture and finesse, with some depth. 90/100

Trius Rosé 2017 Ontario, Canada
Gamay Noir. Dry and appealing with a stony edge, some cherry, some rosehip, and nice supple citrus fruit. Attractive and easy. 87/100

Trius Showcase Outlier Gewurztraminer 2016 Niagara, Canada
Late picked. Complex, textured and softly textured with nuts, wax, lychee, grapes and a nice spiciness. Has a lovely depth to it. Complex and rich with nice structure. Bold and intense. It’s a distinctive wine but a nice one. 91/100

Trius Shiraz 2016 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Cofermented with Viognier, which is interplanted at 5%. 2000 litre foudres. Supple, fresh and peppery with lovely black cherry and blackberry fruit. There’s a bit of structure here with nice freshness and detail. Drinkable and supple. 92/100

Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2015 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
13.9% alcohol. Supple and expressive. There’s nice concentration of sweet fruit here with well behaved blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, a bit of grip and lovely structure. Pure, smooth, sweetly fruited and well balanced in a slightly ripe style. 90/100

Trius Showcase East Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Concentrated and fresh with juicy, slightly minty blackcurrant fruit. Lovely freshness and structure here with some olive character. Sweetly fruited but also bold and tannic. Impressive stuff with nice purity. Finishes tannic. 91/100

Trius Showcase RHS Merlot 2013 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Sweet and concentrated with nice vibrant berry fruits. Juicy with some cherry and strawberry characters. Has a sweetness on the finish: rounded and appealing with a bit of smokiness, some spice, and good focus and balance. 91/100

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NIAGARA SERIES

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