Hillebrand Estate Winery was founded in 1979 by Joe Pohorly, making it one of the first wineries dedicated to the making of fine wine in the Niagara Peninsula. It started out as a small winery called Newark, which was sold and renamed Hillebrand. In 1983, Hillebrand was the first Ontario winery to successfully make Icewine. In 1989, they launched Trius Red, a blend made from the best Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes. Just two years later, Trius Red won ‘best red wine in the world’ at the International Wine and Spirits competition in London, England. The winery has since gone on to receive numerous other awards and accolades. The Trius brand now includes single varietal red and white wines as well as their signature blends. Other Hillebrand wines include the Artist Series, Limited Edition, and Showcase wines. In 1994, Hillebrand was sold to Andres, and is now owned Andrew Peller Limited who also own Peller Estates (ON), Thirty Bench (ON), Sandhill (BC), Red Rooster (BC), and Calona Vineyards (BC).
Hillebrand has been not just a pioneer in the making of fine wine from vitis vinifera grapes in Ontario, but they have also been one of the leaders in promoting agri-tourism to the Niagara region. Hillebrand offers many public and private tours, dinners, and other special events at its beautiful winery and restaurant. Every summer Hillebrand is host to Jazz and Blues at the Winery. Bring a lawn chair and spend an afternoon in the sun enjoying food, wine, and great music performed by leading Canadian jazz and blues musicians. Tickets sell out fast. Check out their website for a list of upcoming events.
I have been to Hillebrand Estates Winery twice in the last two months and both times I have been impressed by their level of hospitality and customer service. Back in January, I took their Icewine tour. We walked out into the vineyards to talk about Icewine and how it’s made and then we went on a tour of their sparkling wine cellar and barrel cellar. The tour was topped off by a tasting of several of their wonderful Icewines. Our guide was knowledgeable and friendly and made us feel welcome. The last time I was there was on Friday.
Some wine events are better than others and Hillebrand’s event called “Rediscover the Art of the Blend” on Friday, February 25th definitely rates up at the top. About 10 food and wine bloggers and wine writers braved the snow in hired limousines, to spend the afternoon at Hillebrand, enjoying amazing food paired with great wine – and afterwards we got to create our own Trius blend to take home with us.
Our afternoon began in the sparkling wine cellar where we were immediately treated to a glass of Trius Brut sparkling wine while we watched Hillebrand’s talented chef, Frank Dodd, compose plates of delicious appetizers. This dish was one of his winners at the recent Gold Medal Plates competition. To one side was a raw oyster with special toppings, and on the other side, underneath a glass dome, there was a slice of fresh salmon and an incredibly light and airy beet sorbet. Just before serving, Chef inserted smoke into the glass dome using a fancy device, to lightly smoke the salmon and beet sorbet. The result was amazing and paired beautifully with the Trius Brut Rose.
Winemaker Craig McDonald then had us taste two brand new wines in the Trius portfolio. Both were tank samples so it will still be a while before they are released. The first was a very aromatic Pinot Grigio with soft, lemony fruit. The other was a Trius Rose which is a blend of Merlot and Shiraz – very juicy, fresh, and fruity with red berry aromas and flavours. Both should be tasty treats this summer at around $14.
After more delicious food and wine in the kitchen, we went into the barrel cellar where we were split into groups and the real fun began. Our mission was to make a unique blend using three different Trius wines – the 2007 Merlot, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2009 Cabernet Franc. The trick was that the blend also had to pair with dark chocolate covered cherries. A winner would be chosen. My group included Konrad Ejbich, Angela Aiello of iyellow wine club, Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto, and myself. After a few different blends we decided on our final blend, named “SeducTRIUS”, which took home the title of best blend of the day.