G. Marquis – The Silver Line

G. Marquis is a new brand from Ontario’s Magnotta winery.  The brand consists of two tiers – the Red Line and the Silver Line.  Although I haven’t had the opportunity to try any, the website describes the Red Line as 100% VQA wines that are soft, fruit-forward, unoaked, and easy-drinking.  The Silver Line is the top tier and is made with hand-harvested grapes from the Stone Road Vineyard located in the Niagara-on-the-Lake appellation.  I recently sampled a few wines from the Silver Line – 2008 Chardonnay, 2011 Pinot Noir, and 2009 Vidal Icewine – and I was impressed.  These are well-made, tasty wines at very reasonable prices.

G. Marquis Silver Line Chardonnay 2008G. Marquis Silver Line Chardonnay 2008 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake:  Aged for 6 months in French-American hybrid oak casks with a subsequent 16 months in stainless steel.  12.3% abv.  Good complexity on the nose for this price range.  Aromas include creamy vanilla, golden apples, tangerine, crisp lemon, some mineral notes, and a touch of butter.  It’s well-balanced with medium weight, cleansing acidity, and flavours of vanilla yogurt, butter, and yellow tree fruit.  The oak influence is light and well-integrated.  Medium length. There are still a few bottles available in LCBO’s Vintages. Good value at $16.95.


G. Marquis Silver Line Pinot Noir 2011G. Marquis Silver Line Pinot Noir 2011 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake: 6 months barrel aging in new French and Hungarian oak.  13% abv.  A vibrant medium ruby colour, this wine shows aromas of cherry, red currant, raspberry, dried bay leaf, and a hint of smoky oak.  On the palate, it’s elegant and fresh, with medium body, bright acidity, and fine tannins.  The oak influence is there, but it is integrated and doesn’t overpower the Pinot Noir’s natural character.  This 2011 vintage will be released as a Vintages Essentials at the LCBO sometime in late summer or early autumn, but right now there are still some bottles of the 2010 vintage available at Vintages.  Again, good value. I’ve had much more expensive Ontario Pinot Noirs that I have not liked as much as this.  $19.95

G. Marquis Silver Line Vidal Icewine 2009G. Marquis Silver Line Vidal Icewine 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula:  Aged for 6 to 8 months in stainless steel prior to bottling.  9.9% abv. This wine is a beautiful golden colour with intense aromas of sweet apricot, dried mango and pineapple, and sultana raisins.  It’s luxurious and rich on the palate showing honeyed apricot, citrus, and tropical fruit notes.  The high sugar level (204 g/L) is balanced by the almost searing acidity, resulting in a quite refreshing finish.  Serve very chilled.  Some bottles are still available at LCBO Vintages for $27.95/200 ml.

(All three wines were received as samples.)

Sparkling Icewine – Uniquely Canadian

A frozen bunch of Vidal grapes for IcewineEverybody knows that Canada makes the best Icewine in the world.  We did not invent Icewine – it is believed the first Eiswein was made in Germany in the 1700s – but year after year, we produce fabulous Icewines that garner numerous international awards.  However, Sparkling Icewine was invented in Canada and is uniquely Canadian.  

The story of sparkling Icewine goes back to 1988 and Canadian wine writer Konrad Ejbich.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Konrad a few days ago and he was eager to tell the story of how it all began…

Back in 1988, Konrad was given a box of half bottles of tank samples of 1987 vintage Inniskillin Icewine.  He put the bottles in his basement with the intention of drinking them soon.  Three or four days later, he noticed a small stream of liquid trickling across his basement floor.  After a short investigation, he found that one of the corks had blown right out of the bottle and that a few of the other corks had started to work their way out.  Knowing that these were tank samples that had not been filtered and that presumably still contained some viable yeast, Konrad guessed that a second fermentation had begun.  Curious as to what may happen, he tied the remaining corks down and waited.  Not too long afterwards, the pressure built up in the bottles caused one of them to explode, so Konrad poured the remaining Icewine into much stronger Champagne bottles (after consuming the original contents), tied the corks Icewine grapes still in the vineyarddown again and waited some more.  At Christmastime, Konrad opened a bottle and tasted the wine.  In his own words, “It was amazing!  It was softer, richer, creamier, and foamy.  It had a mellow texture and was not quite as sweet.” 

For a while, Konrad had dreams of making a business out of crafting his own Sparkling Icewine and selling it to the world.  He imagined riches and red Ferraris.  He sat on the idea for a few years.  In 1996, realizing he had no way of making his dream a reality, he wrote a column in Wine Tidings Magazine describing his discovery and putting a challenge out to winemakers to make sparkling Icewine on a commercial level.  If they were successful, all Konrad wanted in return was a case of the wine.

In 1997, Magnotta was the first winery to make an Icewine sparkle with their release of Sparkling Ice.  This wine was Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewineartificially carbonated and was not allowed to be labelled as VQA as there was no category for this style of wine.  They were also not permitted to use the term Icewine, hence the name Sparkling Ice.  This wine has been very successful for the company and they have won numerous awards for the wine.

Then, after extensive research and experimentation by Inniskillin‘s co-founder and winemaker Karl Kaiser, Ontario’s first VQA Sparkling Icewine was released with Inniskillin’s 1998 vintage, just in time to celebrate the Millenium.  This wine was made with Vidal grapes and using the Charmat method where the second fermentation creates bubbles which are captured under pressure in a sealed stainless steel tank.  The Vidal Sparkling Icewine was such a huge success, that they continue to make this unique wine.  

Pillitteri Vidal Sparkling IcewinePillitteri Estates Winery has also released a few sparkling Icewines using the Charmat or Cuve Close method.  They currently have the 2004 Sparkling Vidal Icewine available at the winery that sells for $60/375 ml.  While Inniskillin has only made a Vidal Sparkling Icewine, Pillitteri has also had a 2008 Cabernet Sparkling Icewine that they are now sold out of.  

Food Pairings

Sparkling Icewine are the most food friendly of all the Icewines as the bubbles cut the sweetness of the wine allowing a wider range of pairing choices.  Pair Sparkling icewine with spicy dishes,  rich cheeses with strong flavours, such as blue cheeses, grilled scallops and a fruit sauce, chicken satays with a peach dipping sauce, or with fruit based desserts or creme brulee.

Tasting Note

Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine:  A beautiful golden yellow colour with streams of tiny bubbles rising to the top of the glass.  Pronounced aromas of ripe yellow stone fruit (apricot, nectarine, peach), fresh pineapple, honey, and a touch of cinnamon.  A luxurious and creamy texture with enough acidity and effervescence to cut through the sweetness.  A very long length.  Available at the LCBO for $69.95/375 ml.

Related Articles:

It’s All About Icewine!

Sensational Sparkling Wine from Ontario

Wine Tasting at Malivoire Winery – An Affair with Pinot Noir

Malivoire Winery EntranceI have had a passionate love affair with Pinot Noir for some time now – I’m frequently seduced by its alluring aromas and flavours and silky caress – so I was excited to learn about The Pinot Affair wine tasting taking place at a few wineries in Niagara on the weekend of October 15-16.  Unfortunately I was only able to get to about half of the wineries involved.  They were all fun, flirty affairs until…my heart was stolen…by Malivoire Winery.

Malivoire Wine Company began in 1995 when Martin Malivoire and his partner, Moira Saganski, purchased a plot of land on what is now the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation of the Niagara Peninsula wine region in Ontario. That plot of land soon became the Moira Vineyard.  A year later, they purchased more land just to the west, which is now the site of the winery.

Malivoire currently owns two vineyards, Moira and Estate, and farms two other vineyards under lease, Epp and Eastman.  All vineyards are in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation, with the exception of the Epp Vineyard which is on the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation.  Malivoire also makes wine from the Mottiar Family Vineyard which was purchased by Malivoire’s own winemaker, Shiraz Mottiar, in 2003.

Malivoire only grows grape varieties that are suitable for the sand, clay, and limestone soils and the  cool-climate conditions of the region.  Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Gamay, and Pinot Noir are their chosen grapes.  Malivoire does not use pumps, but uses gravity to move the pre-bottled liquid from one place to another, reducing agitation and oxidation, minimizing the need for filtration, and in the end, enhancing flavour.

The Wine Tasting Event

The wine tasting was led by Shiraz (yes, that’s his real name) Mottiar himself.  It was a real treat to be able to taste Pinot Noirs from the 2010 vintage that are still in barrel.  We startedShiraz Mottiar, Malivoire's winemaker with 2 Pinots from the Estate vineyard; one was fermented in stainless steel and the other was barrel fermented.  The barrel was not toasted, so it’s just the fresh wood in contact with the wine.  The first wine was very fruit-forward with bright acidity.  Shiraz said that it will probably make up the foundation of the Alive label Pinot Noir.  The barrel fermented wine had the same red fruit, but there was a bit more spice and earthiness, and a rounder mouthfeel.  I felt this was a more complex wine.  Shiraz commented that it had great structure, but that it may need some support from other wines during the blending process.

Next we tasted two wines from the Mottiar vineyard, also from 2010.  As with the Estate Vineyard wines, one was stainless steel fermented and the other was barrel fermented.  Again the stainless steel fermented wine was a more fruit-forward wine, but there were also some distinct mineral and floral notes.  But it was the barrel fermented Mottiar vineyard Pinot Noir that really stole my heart.  It was intense and aromatic with darker fruit, more spice, and a floral perfume.  Supple, smooth and silky with a very long finish.

Shiraz then encouraged us to do a little blending of our own to see how two or three of these wines would work together.  I mixed the two Mottiar Vineyards wines together creating one delicious blend indeed!  I’m really looking forward to trying the finished wine in about a year; it’s sure to be a beauty.

We then tasted the 2009 Alive Pinot Noir, the 2009 Small Lot Pinot Noir, and the 2009 Mottiar Pinot Noir.  Tasting notes for all wines are below.

Wine Tasting Notes

Estate Vineyard 2010: Stainless steel fermented.  Still in tank.  A brilliant ruby colour with ripe red berry aromas; strawberry, raspberry, and cranberry.  Delicate but with bright acidity on the palate and a very fruity finish.

Estate Vineyard 2010: Barrel fermented.  Still in barrel.  The same red berry fruit as in the first wine, but more spicy, earthy notes and a touch of vanilla.  The tannins are more noticeable, but there’s a rounder mouthfeel and more complex flavours.  Good length.

Mottiar Vineyard 2010: Stainless steel fermented.  Still in tank.  A bright ruby colour with a purplish hue.  Mineral and floral notes combined with lots of cranberry, raspberry, and red currant aromas.  Subtle and delicate.  Very pretty.

Mottiar Vineyard 2010: Barrel fermented.  Still in barrel.  Intense and aromatic with spicy cranberry, red plum, dark raspberry, black cherry, and a floral note reminiscent of rose petals.  Fuller and rounder on the palate than the previous wines with a very long lingering finish.

Alive Pinot Noir 2009:  12% barrel fermented.  A bright ruby colour with sour cherry,  red currant, raspberry, mineral, and a touch of smoke.  Bright acidity with a good length.  Very approachable and ready to drink now. ($29.95)

Small Lot Pinot Noir 2009:  60% barrel fermented.  Darker, spicier fruit than the Alive version, with mineral, earth and violet aromas.  Ripe fruit and spice on the palate with a firm structure and a long length.  A good wine to leave in the cellar for 3 – 5 years.  It’s recommended that you decant for 1 hour if serving now.  ($34.95)

Mottiar Pinot Noir 2009:  50% barrel fermented.  Aromatic and elegant with aromas of plum, blackberry, earth, cinnamon spice, flower petals, and a minty note.  Silky tannins and a long length.  Cellar for 3 – 5 years.  It should age and evolve nicely.  Only 100 cases made so don’t delay in buying this wonderful wine.  ($39.95)

Alvento Forced to Sell Winery and Vineyards

Just one day after posting this week’s Wednesday Wine of the Week featuring Alvento Winery, I found out that Bruno and Elyane Moos, and their partner, Morrie Neiss, have been given a court order to sell the winery and vineyards.  The news was reported last night by Rick VanSickle of Wines in Niagara.  Click on the link to read his full report, “Alvento, Home of Quality Red Blends, Viognier, and Nebbiolo, Told to Sell Winery.”  In short, the story is that Bruno and Elyane were committed to producing top-quality, boutique wines, while their partner was more interested in producing less expensive, more popular wines for the lower end of the market.  The feud was taken to court where a judge decided the winery and vineyards would be sold and the partnership dissolved.

This is such a sad story.  I visited Alvento Winery this past July and found Bruno working at the tasting bar.  When he saw how enthusiastic I was about his wines, he invited me into the barrel room and had me taste wines still in barrel and tank.  I tried the 2010 Viognier, the 2008 Nebbiolo, which he told me would be bottled soon, and the 2010 Nebbiolo, which was still a baby and had a long way to go.  It was obvious that Bruno was very proud and very passionate about his wine – and rightly so.  These are top-notch Ontario wines.

I can only imagine how devastated Bruno and Elyane must feel right now.

Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Vintage Wine Tasting

Le Clos Jordanne FermentersYes, Ontario makes some excellent premium wines, both red and white, and Le Clos Jordanne‘s Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are definitely among the top of the heap. Last week, I attended the launch party of the 2009 Le Clos Jordanne wines, held at the Brooks Brothers clothing store in the Royal Bank Plaza in Toronto.  I have to say that it’s the first wine tasting I’ve ever been to in a clothing store, but it seemed to work out.

The Le Clos Jordanne wines were, as usual, of high quality.  In fact, Del Rollo (of Vincor) who welcomed everyone to the wine tasting, proudly proclaimed that 2009 is one of the best vintages they’ve ever done.

Le Clos Jordanne Winemaker Sebastien Jacquey said that 2009 had “ideal conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  It was cooler, but sunny and dry.”  He stated that the fruit was clean and healthy, and they were able to use wild yeasts and long maceration times.

However, the wines are still very young, and most of them need more time in the bottle to integrate and mellow a bit more.  To read my review of the Le Clos Jordanne 2007 Vintage, please click here.

The 2009 Vintage in Ontario

According the VQA Ontario Vintages Report, the 2009 vintage had some difficulties.  April was wet.  May was drier but cool, giving a slow but steady start to flowering.  June had normal temperatures and precipitation, but in July the weather turned cool and wet, with temperatures about 2 to 3°C cooler than normal.  August started out cool, but by the third week, much needed warmth and sunshine returned.  At this point it looked like it would be a late harvest.  September really pushed along ripening with continued warm, dry, and sunny conditions.  In the end the harvest was only a few days later than normal. The vintage was a bit challenging for longer-ripening reds, such as Merlot and the Cabernets, but it was excellent for Pinot Noir and Gamay.

The Le Clos Jordanne grapes were harvested in the beginning to mid-October in 2009 at around 22° Brix.  Sorting was minimal due to the excellent health of the fruit.

The Vineyards

Le Clos Jordanne has 4 vineyards:  Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard, La Petite Colline, Claystone Terrace, and Talon Ridge.  The vineyards are all farmed sustainably with biodynamic practices being used, such as spraying with herbal preparations.  No pesticides or herbicides are used in any of the vineyards.  Each vineyard is treated differently according to its specific terroir needs, and each vine is cared for by hand.  The vines are trained in a single guyot system and usually leaf pulling is done at the beginning of veraison on the eastern side of the vine.  In 2009, leaf pulling was done on both the east and west sides of the vine to prevent disease and to ensure grape ripening in the cooler weather.  After veraison, the vines are netted to prevent the birds from devouring the grapes before they are harvested.  All wines are VQA and are labelled with the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation of the Niagara Peninsula, except the wines from Talon Ridge which are designated as Vinemount Ridge.

Le Clos Jordanne wine barrelsWinemaking and Ageing

Chardonnay:  The winemaking and ageing of the Chardonnays remained pretty constant among all wines.  Fermentation took place in barrel using wild yeasts.  Due to the high acidity of the Chardonnay, the malolactic fermentation struggled a bit with some wines only completing about 80% MLF.  The wines were aged for 13 months in 15 to 20% new French oak barrels, with continual lees stirring throughout this time.

Pinot Noir:  The grapes were clean and ripe and underwent 5 days of cold soak prior to fermentation with wild yeasts.  Maceration lasted for approximately 32 days, and then the wine was transferred to barrel where it underwent natural malolactic fermentation.  All the Pinot Noirs were aged on the lees for 18 months in 35% new French oak barrels.

Wine Tasting Notes:

Village Reserve:

The Village Reserve Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes from all four vineyards and is sourced from sections of the vineyards not reserved for the single vineyard wines.  The Village Reserve Chardonnay is a blend of Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard, Claystone Terrace, and Talon Ridge.  No Chardonnay is grown on La Petite Vineyard due to its small size.  The Village Reserve wines are meant to express the terroir of the town of Jordan in the Niagara Peninsula appellation.

Village Reserve Chardonnay 2009: A bright, pale lemon colour with aromas of white flowers, honey, vanilla, smoke, nectarine, and lemon/lime citrus.  It’s crisp and clean with a minerally yet creamy finish and a good length.  $30

Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2009:  Medium ruby-coloured with black and red cherry, black currant, earth, black pepper, and chocolate on the nose.  On the palate, this wine reveals a firm structure, with flavours of sour cherry, red currant, and toasty oak.  Could use at least 6 months in bottle and will drink well for at least 3 years.  $30

Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard

Wines from this vineyard are considered to be among the best in Le Clos Jordanne’s portfolio.  It’s located on a natural plateau near the slope of the escarpment on light limestone soils with rich sediments.

Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay 2009:  This wine shows an abundance of fruit, including melon, peach, apricot, and lemon/lime, along with aromas of white flowers and cream.  Very creamy and supple on the palate with a very good length.  $40.

Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009:  Aromas of mixed red berries: cranberries, cherries, strawberries; violets, mineral, and toasty oak.  Soft, silky, and juicy on the palate with a long finish.  A good choice to serve during the holidays this year but will also keep for 3 to 5 years.  $45.

Talon Ridge

Talon Ridge is the largest of the 4 vineyards at 27.14 ha (69.21 acres) and differs from the other vineyards in the estate as it is located at the top of the escarpment rather than at its base.  It has stonier soils and its higher altitude means that it has cooler temperatures, generally resulting in lighter, fruitier wines.

Talon Ridge Chardonnay 2009:  Quite intense aromas of vanilla, coconut, yellow apple, pear, mineral, and honey.  Zippy acidity, chalky stone, and yellow fruit dominate the palate.  The oak is well-integrated and the wine has a pleasant creamy finish.  $37

Talon Ridge Pinot Noir 2009:  This wine shows aromas of dark cherry, spicy black pepper, plum, and dried herbs.  On the palate, the tannins are somewhat astringent and might benefit from at least a year in the bottle.  $40.

Claystone Terrace

As its name suggests, the soil has heavy, dark, moisture retaining, clay soils which results in robust, well-structured wines.  The vineyard is 9.91 ha (24.48 acres).  Personally, the 2009 Claystone Terrace wines, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, were my favourite of the tasting.

Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2009:  Complex aromas of yellow stone fruit (nectarine, apricot, peach), lemon/lime citrus, yellow apple, creamy vanilla, mineral, and a touch of butterscotch.  Rich and juicy on the palate with lively acidity, ripe fruit, well-integrated oak flavours, and a long creamy finish.  Very delicious.  Drinking well now but will also benefit from a couple of years in the cellar.  $40

Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2009:  A ruby red colour with pronounced aromas of both red and dark fruit, such as red plum and blackberries, along with dark chocolate, earth, and spice.  Silky and soft on the palate with rich fruit, ripe tannins, fresh acidity, and a long length.  A beautiful and elegant wine, which will benefit from 3 to 5 years of ageing.  $40

La Petite Colline

This is the smallest vineyard at only 3.25 ha (8.3 acres).  It has very sandy soils which means it has better drainage and warmer temperatures which reflects in the wines.  Only Pinot Noir is planted in this vineyard due to its very small size.

La Petite Colline Pinot Noir 2009:  This is a very pretty wine with aromas of red currant, raspberry, cherry, earth, and a touch of spice.  Refreshing acidity, tart sour cherry, and mineral are evident on the palate.  The tannins are soft and ripe.  A very nice Pinot Noir.   $45

Le Grand Clos

The grapes for these wines come from the best parcels of the Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard where the soil has better drainage and more limestone than other parcels.  The grapes for this wine generally hang on the vine for a longer time, optimizing ripeness and complexity.

Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2009:  Elegant and complex, this wine shows aromas of stony mineral, sweet vanilla, cinnamon, fresh lemon citrus, stone fruit, and white blossoms.  A silky, creamy texture and full-body, with flavours of citrus, peaches and cream, mineral, and creme brulee on the long finish.  $65

Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2009:  Aromas of spicy red and black berries (cherry, currant, blackberry), earth, smoky oak, and a floral note.  The tannins are ripe but need more time to integrate and soften.  Rich and velvetty.  Will benefit from at least 3 years of aging and will cellar well for 5 to 7 years.


Related Posts:

Le Clos Jordanne – A Tasting of the  2007 Vintage

A Visit to Ridge Road Estate Winery

A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in a long time, I was finally able to get out to the Niagara Peninsula to visit a few wineries.  It was a Wednesday, the weather was perfect, and there weren’t too many crowds…just the way I like it.    My first stop was Ridge Road Estate Winery.  I made my way up the steep, winding road that led me up the escarpment in the shade of a lush, green forest.  It was beautiful.  I wondered how it managed to be so very green with the very little rain we’ve had so far this summer.  Suddenly, I found myself in the bright sunshine again, heading west along Ridge Road to the winery.

Ridge Road Winery was founded by Jayne and Sean Douglas on land that has been owned by Jayne’s family for about 100 years.  In 1994, after purchasing the property from Jayne’s family, they started planting vines and selling the grapes to local wineries.  They now make their own wine and just recently opened an attractive tasting room.

Of the 60 acres of land on the property, about 12 acres has been planted with vines.  The remaining acres will be left to provide habitat for the abundant wildlife in the area.  Ridge Road is dedicated to quality.  All the grapes are hand-picked and sorted and the wines are made in small batches.  They produce a range of styles, including whites, rosés, reds, sparkling wine, single varietals, and a few unique blends.

Sean, who was working the tasting room when I arrived, was very friendly and extremely passionate about his wines.  I was able to taste most of what is available right now and I was impressed by the quality.  It’s definitely worth the trip up the escarpment.

Tasting Notes:

2010 Unoaked Chardonnay ($16.95):  Attractive aromas of green apple, pear, lemon, and mineral.  Crisp and refreshing, yet soft, on the palate.  A nice summer wine.

2008 Riesling ($14.95):  Minerally and citrussy aromas with a touch of kerosene on the nose.  Refreshing acidity and a lingering finish.

2009 Riesling ($15.95):  Complex with aromas of white blossoms and more peachy fruit than the 2008.  The palate shows melon, peach, wet stone, and citrus with the typical zesty Riesling acidity.

2009 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($16.95):  17 months in mostly French barrels and then finished with a little American oak.  Floral and fruity with aromas of peach, pineapple, butterscotch, and a cinnamon spiciness.  Very creamy on the palate with a vanilla finish.  Quite nice.

2010 Intersection ($15.95):  A blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and a little unoaked Chardonnay.   Quite pronounced aromas of flowers, peach, apricot, citrus, and wet stone.  Very soft on the palate with lychee, wet stone, and citrus.  A great patio sipping wine!   (Unfortunately, I think I may have bought the last bottle.)

2008 Vineridge Blend (12.95): An interesting blend of Traminette, Geisenheim 318, Riesling, and a splash of Vidal.  A slightly funky nose of grapefruit, peach pit, mineral, earth, and perhaps mushroom (?). Crisp acidity and a good length. Grapefruit citrus and mineral on the finish.

2009 Pinot Noir ($19.95):  A pretty, bright ruby colour with aromas of fresh cherry, strawberry, cranberry, red currant, earth, and a touch of chocolate.  Nice and juicy on the palate with a pleasant lingering finish.

2009 Gamay ($15.95):  Sean told me they use Barolo yeast to ferment this wine and it is aged in both French and American oak.   This is a bigger, more complex Gamay than those of Beaujolais in France.  Aromas of black pepper, cherry, red currant, earth, and a lovely floral note.  Juicy fruit flavours and crushed black pepper on the palate make this a perfect BBQ wine.

2008 Baco Noir ($14.95):  One of the best Baco Noirs I’ve tried.  Soft and smooth, with aromas and flavours of smoky black cherry, red licorice, and spice.

Hillebrand Estate Winery – Fine Wine and Hospitality

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.

Chef Frank Dodd smoking the salmon.

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.  

And the winners are...

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