10 Questions with Winemaker Ross Wise from Keint-He Winery & Vineyards

Ross Wise of Keint-He Winery & Vineyards

Ross Wise of Keint-He Winery & Vineyards (photo provided by Ross Wise)

(This is my first post in a series leading up to Terroir on May 3rd, 2014. Krista Lamb and I are sharing blogging duties leading up to Terroir so watch both sites for posts on PEC wineries. – Shawn)

Ross Wise is an extremely talented winemaker who I first met in 2011 when he was the winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars. Through Twitter, we were surprised to hear that he had left Flat Rock and Niagara and headed to the County. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising. Here’s 10 questions I asked Ross, and his answers (he couldn’t answer the one about why he would trade New Zealand’s moderate climate for one like we all lived through this winter in Ontario!).

Shawn: What’s your title and role at Keint-He?

Ross: I am the Winemaker and Vineyard Manager. I plan and oversee all operations in the vineyard and the cellar.

Shawn: Are you consulting with any other wineries?

Ross: Yes, I also work with Rosewood, Organized Crime and The Good Earth Wineries in Niagara.

Shawn: Besides wine, what’s your passions? What’s this cheese and hops business all about?

Ross: I do like cheese. I eat more than my share of good cheese, and make the odd wheel at home as well. Growing hops is a new project I am working on. I have a 250 plant hop yard on the go in Northumberland County (Shelter Valley Hops). This came about from another one of my passions – great beer.

Shawn: Tell us how a New Zealand native made his way to Ontario. What route did you take? Were there other stops along the way or was it a direct route?

Ross: It was a direct route from Marlborough, NZ, to Ontario. It was supposed to be a three month harvest internship at Flat Rock, but that got extended a bit. I’m still here, nearly 8 years later.

Shawn: What ultimately drew you to Prince Edward County?

Ross: I was looking for a new challenge, and Keint-he and PEC seemed to be a good fit. It was a good chance to get back to small batch winemaking, with a terroir driven, premium focus. I had also been enjoying PEC wines for a while, and I was really keen to have a go at making wine from grapes grown in these soils.

Shawn: Going from a fairly large production winery like Flat Rock to a smaller, artisanal winery in Keint-He must have presented some challenges. What made the adjustment difficult?

Ross: There were very few challenges actually. Keint-he already had the foundations of a good cellar, so it was just a matter of picking up a couple of pieces of equipment here and there. Our four vineyards also responded really well to how we managed them in the first year. It all fell in to place very quickly.

Shawn: What’s the best thing about living in the County?

Ross: I think the rural atmosphere and the scenery is great.

Shawn: Any surprises in your short time here?

Ross: The food scene is much bigger and better than I thought it was before I moved here. That was a nice surprise.

Shawn: How would you describe the Terroir here versus Niagara?

Ross: In PEC we have a lot of broken limestone at the base of our soils, which is responsible for that great mineral character in our wines. Our growing season is also later and cooler than Niagara, which I think is actually an advantage when you are dealing with Pinot Noir. The later season means that the Pinot Noir is doing most of its ripening in the cooler temperatures of late September and October. This allows for a slower accumulation of flavours and aromas in the berry, and it also helps to retain the great natural acidity of the fruit.

Shawn: Any special wines we should watch for from you this year?

Ross: My personal favourite is our 2012 Portage Pinot Noir, which will be released this spring (very limited quantities). This is a blend of fruit from two PEC vineyards.

Terroir Logo

Terroir – A County Wine Celebration! takes place Saturday May 3, 2014, Noon until 5pm at The Crystal Palace, Main Street Fairgrounds, Picton.  Blogger Krista Lamb is also writing about County Wineries leading up to Terroir – her blog is here.

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