A great day in Niagara wine country. 58 wines tasted at four different wineries. Lots learned. Helicopters flown in: 1.
The day started at Southbrook Vineyards, which was Canada’s first certified biodynamic wine producer. It’s an impressive, modern LEED-certified winery, too. I met with winemakers Ann Sperling and Brian Hamilton (above), and we tasted through a smart range of wines. It’s quite a warm spot here, and the strengths are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. I really liked the Poetica Chardonnay 2009 and the Poetica red blend 2010.
Then it was time for a helicopter trip. This was pretty cool: in addition to getting the aerial perspective on Niagara’s wine country, we got to fly over the Niagara Falls. Quite remarkable! The flight took us to the home of Martin Malivoire, who left the world of movie special effects to become a winegrower in the Beamsville Bench VQA.
We tasted together with general manager Stephen Gash and winemaker Shiraz Mottair, while Martin was busy at work with his pizza oven. We tasted quite a lot of wines, with plenty of highlights. One of Malivoire’s specialities is Gamay, and I was thrilled by the 2008 and 2010 Courtney Gamays. The 2011 Gewurztraminer was also quite beautiful. We finished our succession of pizzas with a lobster pizza – this is definitely my first experience of lobster pizza!
Then it was off the second Canadian biodynamic winery of the day: Tawse. Tawse has an impressive visitor centre and winery, and there I met with winemaker Paul Pender and owner Moray Tawse.
We tasted a lot of wines, and there were some real highlights. I enjoyed the limited release Chardonnays: six bottles, sold together, from individual vineyard plots, from the 2011 vintage. The difference here is all down to the soil type, and the wines showed marked differences. One is from the Lenko vineyard, which, with its 52 year old vines is the oldest vinifera vineyard in Canada. That’s cool!
Cabernet Franc is a strength here and the Laundry Vineyard 2002 Cabernet Franc is a special wine (it was labelled Vintner’s Reserve then), with lovely pure, focused black fruits. And Syrah: the wine club Syrahs from 2010 and 2011 are beautiful, peppery, cool climate expressions of this grape.
The final appointment of the day was with Francois Morisette at the Pearl Morissette winery. Francois is a thoughtful, articulate winegrower with a particular vision. He makes some thought-provoking wines in a more natural way, with his key being the careful use of lees to achieve texture. He’s recently started with concrete vessels (made by Sonoma Cask Stone), and is bringing in some qvevri to play with, too.
The wines here have interesting textures and flavours, with some oxidative hints but also real complexity and depth. There’s a really interesting Riesling that has been fermented in barrels, and I also loved the as-yet unfinished 2012 Cabernet Franc.