A recent trip to Prince Edward County, one of Ontario’s Designated Viticultural Areas (DVAs) located on the north shore of Lake Ontario about 2-2.5 hours from Toronto, really opened my eyes to some of the spectacular wines being produced there. One wine in particular that I was especially blown away by was Norman Hardie Winery 2007 Cuvée L Pinot Noir.
Norm Hardie was a sommelier at the Four Seasons before he started on the winemaking journey that has taken him to the four corners of the Earth. He made wine in places such as Burgundy, New Zealand, South Africa, California, and Oregon before settling in Prince Edward County, in the town of Wellington, where he has six hectares of vineyard. Norm is a big teddy-bear of a man, and unfortunately, he was not at the winery when I visited. But, I was well looked after by the Operations Manager, Johannes and Assistant Winemaker, Richard.
Norm’s Pinot Noirs are generally beautifully aromatic and elegant and this tasting was no exception.
2007 County Pinot Noir: (I actually helped harvest the grapes for this wine, and afterwards I was so sore I couldn’t move for four days.) This wine spent 8 months in French oak barrels, 35% of which were new. It’s a bright ruby colour with aromas of red berries, including cherry and cranberry, with a delicate hint of violets and mineral. It’s medium-bodied with the same red berry flavours evident on the palate. It has a vibrant acidity, soft, silky tannins, and a long finish. A very enjoyable wine that can be consumed over the next two years or so.
2007 Cuvée L Pinot Noir, Unfiltered: A blend of 40% Prince Edward County grapes and 60% grapes grown on the Beamsville Bench in the Niagara Peninsula. It was aged for 19 months in French oak of which 30% was new.
This wine is a beauty, with a vibrant ruby colour and intense aromas of red and black cherry, raspberry, and plum with a slight kiss of vanilla. The same fruit flavours explode in your mouth with a touch of mineral and a pinch of spice to add to the already complex wine. The oak is noticeable, but very well integrated. The tannins are silky and smooth and it has a long, elegant finish. It can be enjoyed over the next 5 years.
The Cuvée L is a richer, darker, and slightly bigger wine than the County Pinot Noir. I was told that the County grapes contribute the red fruit and vibrant acidity while the Niagara grapes add the darker fruit flavours and extra body.
While the blending of regions may be relatively new in Ontario, it has been practiced around the world for some time. Probably the most famous wine blended from more than one region is Penfold’s Grange. Grange is a blend of mostly Shiraz (a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon is added for structure and balance) primarily from the Australian wine regions of Barossa and McLaren Vale.
In 2004 and 2006, the prestigious Bordeaux property, Chateau Palmer, made an experimental cuvée, called Historical 19th Century Blend, which is a blend of 85% fruit from their estate with 15% Syrah grapes from Hermitage in Northern Rhone. Up until the early 1900s, it was common practice in difficult vintages to blend a small amount of Northern Rhone Syrah with Bordeaux to improve the colour and depth of the wine.
At Norman Hardie I also tried two Chardonnays still in barrel. One made from grapes grown in the County and one from Niagara grapes. They are considering blending the two to make a Cuvée L Chardonnay. If they do, it should be spectacular as well.