Day 7: Talking Chardonnay with Ravine Winemaker Marty Werner


Deb and I had a chance to pop down to Niagara for exactly one day toward the end of June. With no real fixed agenda, we were just going to pop into a handful of places to grab some summer wines. Martin (Marty) Werner at Ravine Vineyard suggested we stop in there for a bit so we made plans to show up early afternoon.

We had a busy morning. After breakfast at Bistro 41 in Vineland (which has quickly become a fav stop for us) we hit Featherstone Wine, Malivoire Wine, and Redstone Winery before popping in to see Marty.

Marty welcomes us to Ravine Vineyard

Marty welcomes us to Ravine Vineyard

We were surprised with a Chardonnay vertical tasting – 2011 through 2014. As we tasted through them, Marty explained that since he took over winemaking duties (2013 was his first vintage as winemaker), he had been going for a leaner, more Burgundian feel to the Chardonnay (previous winemaker Shauna White had preferred a fatter, rounder style, made with grapes harvested with higher Brix).  There is a distinct change in style between the hot 2012 and the cooler 2013 that is not just from the weather, then, with the winemaker influence showing strongly.

Here’s what we tasted:

2011 Chardonnay: This vintage was picked fairly late in the season – 3 to 4 wks later than usual. The nose is butter, peach, ripe apple, and a dominant ripe pear component. The palate has loads of the same fruit at first, showing moderate weight, and then a crisp, acidic lemon finish kicks in and cleanses. As it warmed over the course of the tasting, there was an oxidative character that emerged, and the sweet honeyed fruit became more dominant.

2012 Chardonnay: On this one, the oak influences are more dominant at first, followed by loads of sweet fruit. There’s more of a tropical influence with pineapple, mango, and candied coconut. On the palate, the winemaking influence is evident with toast, butter, and butterscotch notes above the sweet fruit. This is a big Chardonnay!

2013 Chardonnay: Marty explained some of the influence he used on this, his first vintage. The fruit was picked much earlier that previous vintages (21 Brix). He kept the acidity higher, used a reductive process to increase the mouthfeel, and let ambient fermentation run its course. The nose is toast and red & green apple at first, opening to show more coconut and hazelnut over time. The palate is fresh and crisp, with green apple, citrus, and a hint of ripe pear again. This recently won the 2015 Lieutenant Governor’s award – having participated in the selection process in 2014, I know how hard it is to win!

2014 Chardonnay (sample, not yet bottled at time of tasting): Marty explained that they had to use some non-estate fruit to supplement their crop for 2014 and that fruit was ripened more than he would have liked. With a little air time, bright fruit emerges with some light tropical notes and ripe apple and pear. It’s got that similar mouthfeel of the 2013, and the palate shows lively  crisp apple and citrus.

Ben (assistant winemaker) and Marty (winemaker)

Ben (assistant winemaker) and Marty (winemaker) in the production facility

We were then offered to taste a few of the reds, including the monster 2013 Pinot Noir, and Merlots from 2010 (Reserve), 2011, and 2012. Marty explained that their Merlot had been hammered from the two previous winters, so there might not be Merlots like these for a while. A quick stop in the new production facility (it is huge compared to previous accommodations) for some samples of the 2014s, and then we had to grab a few bottles from the tasting room before heading off.

Ravine Reds

Ravine Reds

Ravine Vineyard has many reasons to stop in and visit – Marty has now added great Chardonnay to that list of reasons!

Ravine Vineyard
Address: 1366 York Road, Saint Davids, Ontario
Phone: 905.262.8463
Twitter: @RavineVineyard

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