Friday, February 22, 2008

Some thoughts on Niagara region

Yesterday, I posted about the specific wineries we visited. Let me just say some things about Niagara as a whole.

Every time I go down to Niagara, I always leave impressed with the quality I see. There are noticeable improvements year to year, and I'm really excited to be able to experience a new wine region come into its own. I'd like to focus on the Beamsville Bench and Twenty Mile Bench appellations next time, around the towns of Jordan and Lincoln. They produce really classic northern climate wines, full of lively acidity, minerality, and most importantly, they make wines with elegance and style. I still can't get my mind off how great Malivoire's chardonnays are.

Again, I'm holding firm to my belief that this area is made for Burgundian varietals, the chardonnays and the pinot noirs. You need to grow grapes that ripen early, because we have such a short growing season here and the margin for error is so little. A lot of places we visited produce everything - it's like they want to grow every single varietal in existence. That's ridiculous. There has to be certain grapes that are more suitable for the terroir here, and instead of making 15 kinds of mediocre wines, producers would benefit from focusing on making 5 great wines. Simple philosophy, but some people obviously are more concerned with making money than staying true to the spirit of winemaking.

The area is still in an experimental stage. But it has an advantage. Unlike the Californian wine scene of the 1970's, all the techniques and processes and equipment winemakers need are available. The only thing Canadian winemakers need to focus on doing is working with the terroir, recognizing differences in soil, microclimates, things like that. They need to go back to the basics, and really understand the land. Some folks, which I don't need to name, focus more on how to attract Japanese tourists to their properties.

A good buddy mentioned something to me last night, that really made me take note. He said, "It's all about the wine, not the person behind the counter". It was in reference to the man working at Coyote's Run. I think Rocky was absolutely right. I let my personal feelings get in the way of really getting a good feel for the wine. Coyote's Run couldn't have received its reputation if they didn't produce something worth noting. I will definitely return to the winery again, and this time focus only on the wine.

An interesting thing, which I forgot to mention was that when we were at Creekside, the lady mentioned that their winemaker also produces the Mike Weir and Wayne Gretzky wines. I didn't say anything, but I immediately had this negative perception not only of those wines but also of Creekside's as well. I can appreciate that these 2 celebrities donate the proceeds to charity and they're doing a good thing to promote Niagara, but from a purely wine making point of view, it is an insult to Niagara wine.

Let me explain.

Weir's tournaments take him all over the world. Gretzky coaches in Phoenix. Do you see the problem? How many days a year do you think they spend in Niagara, tending to their wines? You think Weir's going to skip a tournament to take part in the harvest? You think Gretzky can skip a few games to decide when to bottle? That's the problem with these celebrities just slapping their names on anything to make money. Same goes for celebrity perfumes and clothing lines. If you're not serious about committing to something, if you're not willing to spend the time to do something the right way, don't do it at all. It's disrespect to the honest winemakers that are working hard to make a name for themselves. It's absolutely ridiculous!

Let's be very clear: this area holds a lot of promise. If you havn't been up to Niagara wine country, make the trip. It's a short drive, talk to some of the people at the wineries, it'll be interesting even if you aren't really into wine. Experience the area, learn something new, and in 20 years when this region really takes off internationally, you can say that you were there right from the beginning.


  1. I also want to comment that generally, "most" people at the wineries were genuine and willing to share information with you knowing that you're there to learn about the culture.

    There are some that see us young people who come around just for the alcohol and not for the culture. but there's also people who appreciates the younger generation taking an initiative to learn about wine and winemaking.

    I really like to be in the area because of the atmosphere. you feel more cultured and sophisticated! haha
    plus its a great area for photo opportunities

  2. I agree. Most of the people we met were honest and friendly, and I enjoyed how close the community seemed. But of course, there's still this 'elitist' feeling whenever you're dealing with wine - the attitude is still, what the fck do students know about wine?