As noted in the Q&A yesterday, Bethany is an Ottawa-area blogger with a keen interest in Ontario wines. I’m happy that she shoce Domaine Darius to write about, as it is one of the PEC wineries I have yet to visit (but I will soon!). Bethany blogs over at 2ndFerment.ca. ~Shawn
Hang a right off Wilson Road in Hillier, follow the drive through the trees, and you’ll find yourself in a most unusual garden. Paths of flagstone and river rock twist crazily through an eclectic mix of antique statuary and old farming tools. A wild riot of blooms leads up to the bright front door of a tasting cellar.
Inside, the heavy blanket of the day’s humidity drops from your shoulders. Geothermal science is at work here; the temperature hovers at a cool 17 degrees year-round. The light is dim, the ambiance recalling the subterranean wine caverns of the Old World. It’s a reflection of how things are done here: slowly, carefully, with as little tampering–and as much passion–as possible.
This is Domaine Darius. Blink and you’ll miss it; the signage is minimal, much like their advertising and online presence. But they don’t need to worry about ads or web traffic, because the wine sells itself.
Winemaker Dave Gillingham and his wife Joni take great pride in their approach at Darius: sustainable farming, appreciation for terroir, and hands-off viniculture that lets the wine come into its own.
They’re also big believers in what Joni calls “ethical selling”. No middle men, no restaurant sales, no hoarding by private collectors—no matter how often they get asked. And no LCBO. The only wine that gets sold is through the tasting room.
“We are a tiny winery. Selling to restaurants or agents involves another layer of cost and bureaucracy,” says Dave. “I like making wine and seeing people enjoy it; I’m not interested in having it on every LCBO shelf or in every restaurant.”
Dave first started tinkering with wine kits in the late 1970s. He met up with other like-minded oenophiles and branched out into making wine from grapes. With the exception of a one-year course to become a member of the Wine Judges of Canada, Dave learned as he went through the school of trial and error, gaining his senior grand master vintner status with the Amateur Winemakers of Ontario along the way.
In 2008, he and Joni bought a few bare acres in Prince Edward County and became one of a handful of pioneers planting vineyards in the unforgiving, rocky soil.
Success took some time, but when Domaine Darius opened its doors to the public in 2014, they were bombarded with visitors and orders.
“We’ve been open for a year and I’m struggling to keep something on the shelf,” Dave admits.
Long-term plans include experimentation with varieties like Marquette, Petit Pearl and Zinfandel. He recently released the 2014 Gewurtztraminer, which is already selling out fast.
2014 Rosé – French-style dry blend of Gamay and Auxerrois. Rosewater, stone fruit, strawberries; light, fragrant, delicate and clean; best served cold … by the pool, on the beach, on the deck …
2012 ‘Signature’ Chardonnay – Fermented on lees in separate barrels of French and Minnesota oak for 18 months and then blended. Herbed butter, tropical fruit; complex range of flavours of cobbler spice, vanilla, caramel and coconut. Creamy texture, a thin seam of acidity lending to utterly flawless balance, and a lingering finish.
2013 County Cuvée – Blend of Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Marquette, aged two years in barrels and unfiltered. Huge nose of cloves that immediately takes me back to Christmas with every whiff. The aromas follow through on palate with notes of currants and orange peel. Round, soft tannins, with plush fruit on finish; this is a refined, well-crafted wine.
1316 Wilson Road, Bloomfield