I've always struggled to understand how Niagara winemakers claim to make terroir wines. The idea or notion that they've gained a full understanding of their land, and have been able to transmit that into their wines. Claiming that they've acquired a distinct, unique taste that's unmistakably Niagara.
For the most part, I don't believe in that. It's taken the French hundreds and hundreds of years, generations of estate owners and vignerons to uncover what makes their terroir so special. And they're still identifying the best parcels of land.
It's highly presumptuous for New World winemakers to claim that they've found their terroir. Look at California. How many winemakers there state that their wines show terroir? A great majority. So why do they use so much oak? Because oak helps masquerade as terroir. New oak will give you aromas and tastes that only true terroir brings. And until Californians find it, they will keep substituting oak for sense of place, and they'll keep convincing consumers that it's the proper way to do things.
It's interesting, debating about terroir. I'm beginning to see common elements of pinot noir, between the better producers. Elements that make me think, maybe this is the taste of Niagara. Flat Rock, Iniskillin Montague Estate, and Lailey pinot noirs show this common earthiness, this beet root/nutty quality that's so similar. Granted, they're quite unique in their own way but when you compare them, they're strikingly similar. Is this terroir? I don't know but I know these wines are special.
That's why you stay away from the generic stuff - Rocky, still remember that awfully mediocre bottle of Henry of Pelham pinot noir?