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Niagara Wineries


Gul_Dekar
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I tried some Stratus wines 2 weeks ago and I must admit that it is some of the best wines I've ever tasted in Ontario.

THeir Stratus White has the engaging complex aromas which reminded me of good quality burgundy whites (montrachet).... their Red and different varietals (2002 merlot, cab franc) are outstanding as well.

Lenko may not be open all the time, but when it is, I've had the good fortune of experiencing Mrs. Lenko's extremely warm hospitality (that's Daniel's mother btw).

I liked 13th Street's gamay noir..... they're not listed in the wine route however so you need to find their location on their website.

For a nice snack, visit Tony Deluca's cheese shop just down the road from Hillebrand towards Stratus.... great sandwiches....

Most restaurants on the Queen Street strip in NOTL: I have not had spectacular experiences, especially the notoriously overpriced and inexplicably popular Shaw Cafe.

Drop in to the wine shop on queen street and you'll be able to taste wines from both Hillebrand and Peller, saving you a trip to both. I have a strong preference for Hillebrand over Peller but that's only my humble opinion.

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I'm with you on the Stratus wines. I feel that they (along with Tawse and Cave Spring) represent the very best that Niagara has to offer.

The Stratus winery is worth a vist for the facility alone!

"nil illigitimum carborundum"

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Good recommendations so far. Reif wines on the Niagara Parkway has some wonderful reds. Coyote's Run has two great Pinot Noirs (Red Paw and Black Paw), made from the same grapes grown in two different clay soils in their vineyard. The differences are really interesting. I second the strong recommendation for the NCT Winery (which is actually within the Town of NOTL, but in the extreme southwest corner of it, and right off the QEW at Glendale). Alas, their 2003 Pinot Noir is all gone. Their Late Harvest Vidal is one of my favourite sweet wines, and a bargain compared to any icewine.

For pastries, try Willow Cakes & Pastries at the corner of Mary St. and Hwy 55. Outstanding. Breakfast at the nearby Little Red Rooster is a local favourite.

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I'm with you on the Stratus wines. I feel that they (along with Tawse and Cave Spring) represent  the very best that Niagara has to offer.

The Stratus winery is worth a vist for the facility alone!

I'll ditto this statement

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In the interest of staying in as narrow a geographical ring as possible I've been compelled to avoid our stalwarts and stick to niagara-on-the-lake proper. It looks like there's only 10+km from the two furthest stops here - bikeable!

Here's the (very) tentative and (highly) subject to change hit list:

Stonechurch

Strewn

Stratus

Lailey

Reif

Frogpond

Ch des Charmes

Coyote's Run

Maleta

NCT

we've only tasted a few of these and visited none of them before so I'm still eager to here of any recommendation in the immediate environs or cautionary tales.

(If I can finagle out one pit stop, hopefully visit dan lenko on the drive home sunday)

will report back

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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I really dont get all the hype surrounding Stratus.

First off, their wines are decent, but nothing amazing. Their merlot which they claim is their 'flagship red' goes for almost what...$50 at the LCBO??? For that kind of cash, I would much rather go for a '99 bruntello (AKA BRUNELLO - THX NONDOC!!! :raz: ), or even an amarone. Ontario is very well known for their icewine's and their whites, only recently have some of our reds started to gain ground and notice. But definetly not worthy of those kind of prices.

Edited by sadistick (log)
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As this is a discussion board I would beg to differ.

Having tasted everything from the Stratus line over the past 12 months I firmly believe that their "Zero Compromise" winemaking is worth every penny.

But then again, that is just my humble opinion.

I really enjoy the Stratus Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Gamay (sold out!) and the Stratus Red and have continued to purchase Stratus wines for the establishment I work within to a rapturous reception all round (from our clients and staff).

But what do I know?

BTW, I have never tasted a Bruntello before (or heard of one for that matter)... I'd love to taste one though... are they readily available through the LCBO?

*chortle*

Seriously though... I can understand why some would not enjoy the wines of Stratus as they are not for everyone.

I think the choice of buying an Italian Nebbiolo or traditional Venetian Blend over an up-and-coming Niagara Peninsula Merlot is very much a subjective decision.

I like to look at Stratus as a brave vanguard producer for the region and will defend them to the hilt because of this.

Rant over.

Edited by Nondoctor (log)

"nil illigitimum carborundum"

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Oh, and the winery is actually in Prince Edward County, but Norman Hardie's Pinot Noir is all Niagara fruit in the current (first) vintage.

If you can track down a bottle of that it is well worth it.

Also, look out for Charles Baker's Piccone Vineyard Riesling.

TINY production.

I have not tasted it yet myself, but with Msr. Baker's name behind it I am sure that it will be damn good.

Sorry... I am ranting... again...

Edited by Nondoctor (log)

"nil illigitimum carborundum"

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Oh, and the winery is actually in Prince Edward County, but Norman Hardie's Pinot Noir is all Niagara fruit in the current (first) vintage.

The Norm Hardie Pinot is available at JKWB by the glass (or was recently). I tried it and it's a pleasant wine - but with no pinot noir characteristics at all!!!!!!!!!

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we tried it at crush and it was definitely more in line with an austrian or north italian pinot, some nice bright cherries and a soft finish. not exactly the burgundian must, a pleasant bottle, way overpriced (at the wine bar, don't know about the winery).

The things with a lot of the small pec wineries, and stratus for that matter, is that their hardline no compromise attitude results in wines far more expensive than international bottles of comparable quality. I pay 3x the price for local asparagus at riverdale than the broadly 'canadian' stalks at loblaws, but there's a discernible jump in quality at the price point. Not so for many Ontario wines.

--that aside -- just had a lovely weekend in around niagara on the lake. Biked everywhere and consequently didn't hit as many stops as intended but it was worth it be so engagedwith the environs, to sweat out the alcohol between stops and to not need a designated driver in our group.

J&T - beautiful new building, I was really impressed with the operable wall and the catwalk through it, definitely my favourite KPMB project in recent memory. I don't have notes from this stop but we tasted a simple sparkler, two different chards and an abhorrently bad rose.

Stratus - 10$ to taste 3 wines is just too much. Even in a nice new facility, even out of proper riedel glasses, even with a 'free' taste of icewine. The fellow working the counter had miles of attitude (which put off all my compadres) but I played right back and we got on fine. Nice cab franc - very brambly, dark intense long finish - ontario's zin? - lots of dark berry flavours, I would have picked this up if it were less than $30. that's a personal decision of taste too. The riesling icewine I tasted a year ago and it was just overwhelming viscous petrol. That's mellowed out a lot and now it's easily my favourite icewine around, good hit of acidity, complex citrus fruits - something like burnt orange peel - very good.

Joseph's was a little odd. At the exact opposite end of the pretension meter (proving that all thing rely on balance) from Stratus - I tasted some really bad reds, lots of beet horseradish and green pepper flavours (not aromas here). The chenin blanc was interesting - clear as water, a little sweet a little sour. for 10$ it would make great sangria. Tasted two vidal blends (with chradonnay, with riesling) The riesling was also interesting, off dry, a bit of white pepper to balance out the sweetness. The whole place was just a bit odd somehow though.

Pilliterri was really fantastic. Had a very enthusiastic fellow working the counter, Everything we enjoyed he would direct us 5 or 6 neighbouring wineries doing similar bottlings. Their vidal was also very nice (i like this grape way better as table wine than ice wine) a little honey, a little floral, a little green apple and lime. The merlot bianco was a good rose - a little tannin to round things out, good hit of raspberries. Our friends were really into the pinot grigio.

Hilldebrandt was way to big and busy to really get a grasp on - they were pouring two wines - a nice red blend that tasted a bit like jalapenos and roasted peppers, an icewine that was way too hot with the alcohol. the place was really crowded, we were really sweaty from biking, it was not a good match.

Caroline Cellars - Never heard of this place but the folks at the bike rental spot recommended it highly. In addition to wines of blackberry, plum and peaches, they make some clean simple whites and very odd reds. Tasted a chambourcin which smelled like cooked strawberries but tasted like nothing. A zweigelt which smelled like fruitcake spices but tasted like cabbage. A mix of pinot and cherries that was a little cloying but not totally unpleasant, a few teaspoons topped up with champagne would make a nice aperitif.

Reif Estates - I like their shiraz and their chardonnay at the LCBO, tasted a gamay that was a bit simple but nice - soft red fruit - not as good as the shiraz. An off dry blend of gamay and baco - too sweet for me.

Lailey - architectural highlight of the day - the building is really stunning. Tasted two chards - one barrel fermented, and from very old vines. They were both excelllent. Lots of luscious tropical fruits, the barrelled one rounded out with coconut and toasty notes. The other equally well balanced with limey acidity. Great wines. Then their gamay and pinot noir- both winners. The gamay - not as rich as sandstone's or featherstone's - but fairly complex with cherry, chocolate and something darker and subtle - made me think of cherry cola sometimes. The pinot like a more complex reading of the same flavour profile, lingering finish, a little bit earthier though not exactly funky.

Riverview - The only Fume Blanc I saw all day (the only sauv blanc in any form though apparently there are other growers around, it usually gets blended) was a definite highlight. A great mix of lively green acidity, fresh tart exotic fruit and soft butter, almost a bit smoky. I'm not doing it justice - this is a great wine. Nice lychee driven gewurz, a lot of sweet rieslings, no red wines except a sweet blend - not my speed. I woud definitely come back in a year to see how that sauv blanc continues.

So NOTL is definitely different than the Benchland. Lots of very decent alsatian white varietals, lots of poor reds, lots of vidal, lots of good unoaked chard, lots of sweet wines. Had an awesome meal at Zee's - recommended by the Pillitierri crew. Had a great day biking (though next time i'm bringing my own, 30$ for a bike for a day is insane). I would definitely return to Riverview, Lailey and Pillitierri, and I definitely want to see the spots I couldn't get to (NTC, Ch Des Ch, Coyote's Run, Marynissen, Frogpond, Palatine, Strewn, Stonechurch....)

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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I really dont get all the hype surrounding Stratus. 

First off, their wines are decent, but nothing amazing.  Their merlot which they claim is their 'flagship red' goes for almost what...$50 at the LCBO???  For that kind of cash, I would much rather go for a '99 bruntello (AKA BRUNELLO - THX NONDOC!!!  :raz: ), or even an amarone.  Ontario is very well known for their icewine's and their whites, only recently have some of our reds started to gain ground and notice.  But definetly not worthy of  those kind of prices.

I think the spirit of the thread is wines grown in the niagara region, not wines you can buy in the niagara region.

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Oh, and the winery is actually in Prince Edward County, but Norman Hardie's Pinot Noir is all Niagara fruit in the current (first) vintage.

The Norm Hardie Pinot is available at JKWB by the glass (or was recently). I tried it and it's a pleasant wine - but with no pinot noir characteristics at all!!!!!!!!!

It's usually described as Volnay in style - something I've found the two times I've had it. Medium bodied with prominent but restrained fruit (unlike a lot of recent Oregon Pinots I've had) nice mineral and florals combining with red berries, nice depth...the canadian reds are progressing quite quickly in terms of quality.

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So bit by the bug and bolstered by tax refunds I headed down to the Benchland on Saturday for a full day of tasting.

13th street (for their release party), Flat Rock, Stoney Ridge, Featherstone, Vineland, Tawse, Ridgepoint, Malivoire, Dan Lenko, 30 Bench, Angel's Gate and attempted to go to Fielding but they were closed for the day.

Accompanied by the fairly hardcore tasting panel of my dad and his dad (Sadistick, you would have been in good company, Comments like 'I could get a Barolo for that price' or 'for $10 more why don't you just get some good Beajolais' ruled the day). Lunch on the - cold rainy beautiful - veranda at Featherstone was excellent.

Some definite highlights:

13th street easily makes the best sparkling wines around. They released two of them on Saturday - one spent 6 months on the lees and the other two years I think. They were both excellent, the second showing a yeasty fresh baked bread aroma that was very champagne like. Those aside, I was disappointed in their riesling and their gamay which seemed thin, watery, short and dull. I'll certainly be back in six months with high hopes. As this was their release party, they were serving food as well - barbecued chicken and pulled pork sandwiches - which provided a great start to the day.

Featherstones Gewurz is a great bottle, just a bit floral and beeswaxy then dominated by grapefruit and green apple. The Canadian Oak Chard is probably my favourite canadian chard - ripe pear and canteloupe and caramel and butter the luscious fruit and wood tempered by a soft lemony acidity - it's not 'that' food friendly but i imagine wih creamy things it would do great, even with a plate of cheeses. Their gamay is one of the better I tasted (along with Malivoire and Lailey) but I'm finding them mostly disappointing this year.

Vineland's Sauv Blanc was the first wine to impress my peanut gallery - probably because the 04 could easily be from NZ. Herbal and crisp with a good sustained hit of gooseberry, it is a very good wine. They also make an oak aged version which sacrificed a bit too much of the fruit for us. Their Meritage blends were not bad, but for $100 there were a lot of fabric rending cries of 'Italy, California, Australia'

Anyone who thinks that Stratus is too expensive should go to Tawse.

Their Pinot is the barnayrd funkiest I ever smelled here - they're only a year old - let's see what they grow into.

Dan Lenko has the most hospitable tasting room on earth. Their Pinot Noir is worth the price (but sold out) They make about 11 different chards, the cab franc was was the first one of the day that could be called full bodied. Everything about this place is rich full brimming with flavout and even a little over the top. For me the highlight was their Viognier which was just luscious with tons of pineapple, peach, mango, passionfruit, lime - very creamy in the mouth and a long finish. It's a unique product in the VQA world.

That's the end of my travels for a bit - hopefully get to PEC sometime in early July though.

Perhaps this thread can hold ongoing reviews of Ontario Wines, what's everyone drinking?, or just some fabric rending. The quality is increading rapidly but the prices even moe so - Globally, this is a very very very young wine industry - I don't think anyone predates the early 80's putting us on par with upstate New York and where else? Everything is in it's first generation. Within the next 50 years I'm sure we'll see extraordinary changes locally - especially as global temperature rise. I hope though that Ontario will be known for more than ice wine.

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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...I hope though that Ontario will be known for more than ice wine.

Given the most recent edition of Wine Spectator (and in the past) and its reviews of Canadian wines (mostly of ice wines) I think this will be a tough battle to overcome. I can not really offer much since I have less than 6 bottles from Ontario in my entire collection (perhaps only about 10 from BC). No need to get into the reasons for this suffice to say there are a few. I do have several bottles of 13th Street bubbly that is very nice.

officially left egullet....

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I'll be there in 2 weeks and had Vineland on target along with Cave Springs and Stoney Ridge. What you said about Featherstone's Gewurz has prompted me to make swing there as it is a minute away from Vineland. Will report back.

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I'll be there in 2 weeks and had Vineland on target along with Cave Springs and Stoney Ridge. What you said about Featherstone's Gewurz has prompted me to make swing there as it is a minute away from Vineland. Will report back.

right on! power to the small wineries!

(vineland is actually huge, but great)

from vineland going the other way tawse is a block away.

Ridgepoint is right there too - They make a nebbiolo which really piqued my curiosity but it was sold out the other day.

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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Thanks for all the cues. I was planning to spend most of my budget in NOTL but I'll revise that and split it 50-50 I think. We'll be driving in from Montreal and sleeping over in Vineland so I'll be there already int he morning ready to taste everything that comes my way.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have to say, my fav winery in the Niagara region would have to be the NCT (Niagara Teaching Winery). Some very nice wines and they are quite a bit cheaper than some of the other wineries, ie. Stratus, and they are just as good- if not better.

Hope you enjoyed your trip though, wherever you ended up.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Went to check out some wineries on the weekend toward Niagara. I know very little about wines from Ontario and have really not spent much time getting to know them either – plenty of other places I would like to work through first IMHO. As such, I relied on my friend to make the selections for us. We went to Penninsula Ridge, Lakeview Cellars, Lenko, Stoney Ridge, Vineland Estates and Stratos. We did not taste all wines at all places but only the ones that were recommended to me as being the top ones currently available.

The best red wine I tasted was the 2002 Lakeview Cellars Reserve Merlot. Some wines that I thought would be good were just OK, including the Stoney Ridge Estate 2004 Cabernet Franc Reserve, the Stoney Ridge Estate 2002 Meritage Founder's Signature Collection and the most recent vintage of the Cabernet Franc at Stratos. The one thing that I noticed was an over abundance of acidity in each wine. I also noted that the Peninsula Ridge Estates 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve also tasted unusually acidic and very odd on the palate and much preferred the 2001 vintage despite the less than ideal growing conditions for the year as I was told.

The best wines that I did taste were the Chardonnay’s from Lenko Estates (in fact the American Oak Old Vines was my only purchase of the day). These were very good wines. I understand they are made from some of the oldest vines in the area with very low yields in the 1.5 tonnes per acre size. When we tasted the wines they had warmed up to close to room temperature and not a single fault. I would have bought the French Oak also but perhaps another day given its $29.95 tag. The un oaked Chardonnay also had much complexity. Well worth a visit and reminded a great deal of Sonoma and Russian River Chardonnay.

For reference other places I have been to in the area on other trips are Lailey, 13th Street, Pillitteri, Château des Charmes and a few other biger places and Marynissan (sic).

We went to Tawse and would have liked to try but I was not very keen on the prices to taste (the 2 oz pour thing was a little large also IMHO), nor were others, and we all just left. Again, perhaps another day.

All in all, not a bad trip.

Ended the day with the 1986 Sassicaia, 1988 Tignanello and a 1997 Turley Aida Vineyard Zinfandel at dinner which seemed to eclipse much of the day. Many thanks to my friend and his wife for the original super tuscan's. :raz:

Edited by mkjr (log)

officially left egullet....

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Great report, thanks. I admit to having a long-standing love affair with super Tuscan's myself, and some Sassicaia in the cellar that just might have to make an appearance at the lake this weekend.

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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