The first day of my visits in Niagara wine country was an interesting one. I met up with Michael Godel, a really nice Canadian wine journalist, and we did some visits together. First up was Niagara College, where we met with Michael Olson, a well known chef who is on faculty here. They have some very impressive facilities here, including student kitchens, a wine tasting lab and a brewery school.
We also met with the winemaker here, Gavin Roberston, who works with the students and produces some solid wines, including a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, a very good Riesling and some nice Cabernet Franc (under the Report Card label).
Then it was off to Creekside, a winery that specializes in Syrah, among other things. We met with Matt Loney, director of sales and marketing, and Rob Power, who has made the wines here since 2000. Highlights? The Reserve Viognier 2013, the stunning single vineyard Marianne Hill Vineyard Riesling 2014 (this is a stunner), and a vertical of the brilliant Broken Press Syrahs (2008, 2011 and 2012). This was a good visit.
Then it was off to Queylus, a really interesting winery that was founded by a group of 12 wine geeks from Quebec who hired Thomas Bachelder as consultant winemaker. So we met with Thomas and his assistant winemaker Kelly Mason. This was a superb visit, with an in-depth tasting of the wines.
This is a red wine producer with two emphases: Pinot Noir and Merlot/Cabernet Franc. Both are very good, but it is the Pinot that really grabbed me. First vintage was 2010.
Grande Reserve Pinot Nor 2011 is super-impressive. The Reserve 2011 is also stunning. 2013 Grande Reserve Pinot is also hugely impressive. Thomas is a thoughtful winemaker and selects and blends very well. ‘The new world has wasted 40 years in selecting the biggest barrels,’ he says. ‘We select what is light on its feet and has flavour interest.’ He’s in the process of learning about the vineyards and blocks, dividing them up and fermenting them all separately.
The final visit wasn’t an official one. I was having dinner with the other WineAlign judges at Ravine, and sneaked off with winemaker Marty Werner to taste through barrels of the 2014s. This was really interesting, and the reds were looking very good indeed. Ravine is a specialist in Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon: they are in a warmer site and can do these wines really well.