Tastecamp Day 1, Part 2

So it has been a busy couple of weeks and I have been negligent getting my posts finished from Tastecamp. Seeing as they are all being consolidated now, I had better finish them.

So after leaving Château Des Charmes, we drove the short route over to Hillebrand, and headed in for a quick introduction by winemaker Craig MacDonald while enjoying a refreshing glass of sparkling (Trius Brut).

Craig then led us inside the cellar where the sparkling wine is left for 18 months on lees. Hillebrand is a large producer of sparkling wine and Craig explained that each of the 8 concrete bays held 67,000 hand-stacked bottles. He explained that while Niagara is a fledgling industry, no other wine region in the world has advanced as much or as quickly as Niagara, and that is what makes the region so exciting.

We then moved into the barrel room where we had a lengthy discussion on wild v.s. cultivated yeast ferments. Craig described that natural yeast may or may not exist in the barrels, but there is always yeast in the vineyard. We sampled two versions of Sauvignon Blanc and observed the marked differences in the two.

Afterwards, we made our way up to the tasting event with Lailey Vineyards, Stratus Wine, and Thirty Bench Wine Makers. Although I am quite familiar with Lailey’s wines, winemaker Derek Barnett is such an engaging guy that I find it hard to stop talking. I am glad I did though because 30 Bench had some awesome Rieslings to try. Stratus of course was present with their fantastic blends but they also brought along Wildass wines for tasting, which offer lower price points for the average consumer (offering de-classified wine from Stratus).

After a brief rest at the hotel, we headed down to one of the rooms where Vincor hosted a fantastic wine and cheese event. Del Rollo introduced to each of the major brands Vincor has in the Niagara region, with wine-makers Bruce Nicholson (Inniskillin), Marco Piccoli (Jackson Triggs), and Sébastien Jacquey (Le Clos Jordanne) each talking briefly about the wine and the region. We were then invited to sample the wide assortment of wines that VIncor has in their Ontario portfolio. It ended all too quickly and we had to board the bus for Ravine Vineyard and dinner.

I’ve never visited Ravine in all my previous trips but I’ve heard a fair bit on twitter. The winery location and buildings are breathtaking examples of early Canadian architecture restored beautifully. It is a bit like walking into a settlers village, but with today’s modern features.

Wine-making couple Anne Sperling (Southbrook, Sperling (BC)) and Peter Gamble (Winery Consultant to Ravine and many other wineries) walked through the similarities and differences between Southbrook and Ravine, occasionally trading barbs but in general alignment on many points. Ravine makes about 3.5K cases a year, Southbrook about 8K cases, with Ravine doing 1/2-1 tone ferments and Southbrook doing larger.

We were treated to a phenomenal array of wines. Highlights for me included:
– Southbrook 2007 Triomphe Cab/Merlot
– Soutbrook 2008 Whimsy Cab Franc
– Ravine 2007 Reserve Merlot
– Ravine 2009 Riesling (Botrytis Affected)

The meal itself was suckling pig cooked in the wood fired oven outside our eating area. It was served buffet style and there was plenty of delicious food for all to enjoy.

I’ll definitely be including Ravine on my next Niagara tour I organize…I can’t wait to go back and see what else is cooking in that oven.

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  1. Pingback: TasteCamp North: the Coverage | Tastecamp 2011 [Niagara]

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