While in Italy I often get asked about the ice wines made in Canada. Till a few years ago I used to give ice wine to friends and family when coming back home. That was about it.
Things have changed. We have plenty more wine options to choose from. Nowdays Canada makes excellent dry wines. Rieslings, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chardonnay are just some of the grapes that fully express their potential. Canada, as noted by well-known wine expert Ian D’Agata, is making some world-classs wines and the world is noticing. Though it still it’s not getting enough credit as it deserves. I have been to the Niagara region in the month of October and I have realized how much potential there is now and how much quality wine is being made.
Let’s the explore 4 wineries we visited (see previous post to learn about Peller) during the weekend visiting the Niagara region.
1. Reif Winery
It was founded in 1982 by the Reif family, which has a strong tradition of winemaking in Germany. With its first vines planted in the late 1970s, it has some of the oldest Vinis Vinifera vines in the Niagara region. The 125s-acre estate is in the Niagara River appellation, featuring easterly facing slopes and long growing season, and a warmer climate compared to other sub-appellations. Though the winery has got international awards for their excellent ice wines, at Reif they also make excellent crisp whites and medium to full bodied reds.
We love their entry-level Merlot Cabernet blend, which comes at a great price and has have good acidity, which makes it quite food friendly. Perfect for pasta with red sauce and also burgers. As for the whites, their Riesling at around 15 Canadian dollars, is one of the best bargains one can find in Niagara. Fresh and citrusy, with notes of lemon peel, peach, and apple.
Walking distance from Reif, this organic winery also has German roots and is Ontario’s first certified organic winery. While waiting for the wine tasting we had a walk across the estate. There is a beautiful farm with all sorts of animals and trees. You can see also the pond, where frogs live, and which gives name to the estate. Our favourite is their Chardonnay, with notes of pear, lemon and pineapple. Thanks to its full body, it can accompany rich dishes such as roasted chicken, mushroom risotto and aged cheeses.
As for the reds, the Cabernet Franc stands out. This is a grape that Canada can count among its best expressions. While it gives great results in the Loire valley in France, it is often not at its best outside French (and Italian) borders. The one from Frogpond is a fine example of the grape varietal, with great complexity: notes of raspberry, bell pepper, black pepper and earthiness.
Paul Bosc, fifth-generation French winegrower, found this estate in the 1970s. Committed to sustainable agricultural practices from the very start, they were one of the pioneers of quality wine production in Niagara. They have plenty of tasting events to choose from and the atmosphere is beautiful. A French chateau in the middle of Niagara.
We tried the experiences of The Perfect Pair & Sweet and Salty, two fun food and wine pairing tastings. The Old Vines Riesling is one of our favourites, with bright acidity, and it can represent a beautiful pairing option for spicy dishes, with notes of honey, lemon peel and petrol (typical Riesling aroma when it ages). You can understand why Riesling was one of the first vines planted here: it works perfect in this terroir. This is a fine example and has still several years of ageing potential. Their traditional method sparkling Brut is also another favourite of ours, with nice creaminess and acidity. Extremely food friendly. Definitely get a bottle to take home.
Ravine Vineyard, located a few minutes away from Chateau De Charmes, follows organic and biodynamic principles. Gardens are also organic. The land has been owned by the Lowrey family since 1867. Interestingly, in 1869 first Vitis Labrusca grapes were planted. The wine back then was not nearly as good, because Vitis Labrusca grapes are simply not great for winemaking. The next generations continued with grapes and also grew other fruits including peaches, pears, cherries and apples. Only in the last few years, however, there has been the final shift from farm to high-quality winery, which now features a beautiful tasting room in an historic building, unfortunatetely closed now due to Covid restrictions. However, the tasting carried near the vines is definitely a great experience as well.
Our favourite wine here is the Meritage. This is a Bordeaux blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot) that is full-bodied and smooth, with notes of dark cherry, cocoa, licorice and black pepper. A wine for special occasions which will not disappoint any Bordeaux wine lover.