Previously Unexplored Wineries – Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

30 Sep

 

sas

This is my favourite time of year to visit the wineries close by in Niagara. I love the pumpkins showing in the fields, the squash and fresh crop apples at the farm stands, and the smell of wine being made in the winery itself – musty, fruity, yeasty. It’s particularly magical if you grab one of those days in the fall when it’s surprisingly warm and sunny.

When in Niagara, I tend to gravitate to the wineries around Beamsville, Jordan and Vineland. Not sure why. Maybe the familiarity? I’ve been there a bunch. The chance to stop in to Jordan Village and dine at the Inn On The Twenty? Tasty food and good shopping. Whatever – it’s a must stop for any trip to the Niagara region. And, if you’ve read my post on swallowing, you’ll recommend that I don’t visit too many in a row. So, 3 seems about right and then take the back roads to NOTL?

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

A little history and background is needed here. (Paraphrased from estate website) Sue-Ann Staff is a fifth generation grape grower, 2002 Ontario Winemaker of the Year, and two-time winner of the International Wine and Spirits Award in London, England (Top 4 “Women in Wine”). She also moonlights as the winemaker for Megalomaniac Wines, who I’ve featured here before. For Bordeaux freaks like me, she also assists with Megalomaniac’s sister property in St. Emillion, Chateau La Confession. I guess you could say that she’s got a pedigree?

Despite all that, this winery is about as laid back as you can get. We arrived in the midst of a wedding on the grounds. Now, grounds might be a stretch. This is a farm. It doesn’t hide the agriculture behind a faux chateau or architectural vanity piece. I think I even saw a tractor. The winery grounds open through a gravel drive and house a barn, implement shed, and farmhouse with attached tasting room. The bridesmaids were competing for space in the tasting room and the excitement was palpable. Very cool, if you dig weddings. I really do. Even with this distraction, staff were welcoming and engaged. I’ve said it before but the staff at Niagara wineries rival the best I’ve experienced in my travels. – informed, enthusiastic and focused on the customer. And, take note Napa, they do usually charge for tasting (a very nominal fee) that is always, always reimbursed when you buy, in my experience. Nothing makes me madder than paying as much as $20 a person to taste and not getting it forgiven if you buy. A rant for another time.

Before arriving here, Sue-Ann Staff meant riesling for me. I knew that they grew a bunch of riesling and had been supplying wineries for years before making their own. But, they make other wines as well.

What we tried:

11_Pinot_Grigio_large2011 Pinot Grigio $21.00 – Hey, I didn’t think anyone made a pinot grigio in Niagara either. Obviously, Bill has not been paying attention. This is an orange wine. I’ll let other more qualified people give the full explanation. Suffice it to say that the juice from white grapes spends some time on contact with the skins. To give it some colour, maybe tannins too. This wine was big in the glass – think Cerano de Bergerac spritzed with citrus fruit. It had an off-dry profile, citrus again until the finish which was surprisingly dryer. A nice switch from the ubiquitous crisp and nada PG’s that seem to flourish these days. My first orange wine!

2012 Loved By Lou Riesling $16.95 – Citrusy after a swirl. This is off-dry as well in the mouth with a steely personality. Enough acid to food pair but I found it the least individual of the wines. That is; it tasted like a lot of other mid range Rieslings that I’ve had from Niagara. In fairness, it isn’t a single vineyard or high-priced entry. This would be a good sipper around the patio.

11_Riesl_LU_3afe8d63-ce58-47ab-a8a5-f0a6e3b3c42c_large2011 Robert’s Block Riesling $26.00 – Now, we are talking. This is a dry effort that has a big hit of petrol on the nose (love that) but clean petrol not that oil sands stuff that our government blindly supports (Did I just make a political statement?). This is crisp and lip smacking in the mouth and on the finish but there is that petrol again and citrus fruit and maybe even a bit of tropicality too. Loved It! I think it could hold for a few years – at least that’s what I’m doing.

2011 Baco Noir $14.95 – This red was suggested as a possible red that The Director could drink. You see, she suffers from headaches when drinking reds. Which means? More red wine for Bill! This is a soft red – some muted acidity and tannins with strawberries and herbs making up much of the experience. I tend to heavier reds but Baco Noir has been good to me before. This one has some power without the weight. It seems perfect for those that like a very approachable red – maybe on a warmer day with snackees and a movie. Price is great too.

SAS_CAB_MERLOT_2a_5b68604f-373a-409d-a27b-d39923c3a63c_large2010 Cabernet Franc $21.95 – So, here we are at the wine that impressed me the most. Oh, I could talk about the 2010 Merlot but this is where I’d like to end. I’ve praised Niagara cab franc before and, damn, if I didn’t prefer the ones from down by NOTL. Well, this winery located near Jordan (Twenty Mile Bench and Vinemount) has me heading out to take another look at cab francs from here. This is a structured (by that I mean “not flabby”) and cellar worthy red with fruit close to the ground – dark raspberries and brush. Not huge but large enough to satisfy the bigophile. Balanced and polished. Perfect wine with game. What game? AL Wild Card and ribs. At least that what I’m having it with. Go Royals!

Lots of other tastes available too. They have all the usual suspects – icewines, sparkling, pinks. Oh, I forgot the dog. There’s a dog called Brix (picture below). Beautiful Bernese Mountain dog. Just laying around being a farm dog. Each bottle has a neck tag that has a picture of him and it says, “Brix Approved.” I love dogs.

Get Thee To A Winery Near You! And, if you’re doing the Niagara Region, go see Sue-Ann and Brix.

Next Post: New Kids On The Block – Westcott Vineyards

 

brix

Images courtesy of:

http://www.sue-annstaff.com

11 Responses to “Previously Unexplored Wineries – Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery”

  1. Lyn September 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    Just an FYI, I am a new subscriber and I am a Bordeaux freak! I love exploring your old posts too. I have my brother Bob to thank for introducing your blog to me

    • Duff's Wines September 30, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

      Bob is a mench. Glad that you’re following.I don’t review a lot of Bordeaux as they tend to be a bit expensive and out of the range of many of my readers. But I did mention a couple a while ago in a post called “Age…” can’t remember the whole name.

  2. Ken September 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    I must admit Bill that I have peddled Staff but not consumed. You have likely changed that!

    • Duff's Wines September 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Ken,
      She is a true winemaker. That doesn’t mean that all her stuff is a fit for everybody. But, her mid to higher priced rieslings are great.I was surprised with her reds. The baco noir was a ‘crowd pleaser’ and the cab franc and merlot were comparable to other very good Niagara res that I’ve had.I tried her icewine and rose but didn’t take notes so don’t have much recollection.
      Good for you to push some Niagara.

  3. Oliver October 1, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Joanne and I visited Sue-Ann Staff in May 2014 and have to agree that it was a great visit! As you said Bill, they were very focused on us as visitors, very accommodating, made us feel very comfortable. We felt like we were dropping in and visiting a friend’s kitchen! I also have to say that they had a really interesting range of wines that made the tasting more fun because it wasn’t like three or four versions of the same thing. We coupled our visit to SAS with Flat Rock Cellars just down the street, which was also great (but different).

    • Duff's Wines October 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

      We did Flat Rock as well. Plus there’s a new winery called Westcott just down the road. I’m going to talk about it next.
      Love Sue-Ann though.

  4. creativecardsandphotography October 13, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    Love Sue-Ann, her dog Brix, and their wine!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Previously Unexplored Wineries – Westcott Vineyards | Duff's Wines - October 15, 2014

    […] stumbling in Niagara featuring, in that post, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery. You can read that post here. This is another in the Previously Unexplored Wineries […]

  2. (Not Really) Previously Unexplored Wineries – Flat Rock Cellars | Duff's Wines - October 31, 2014

    […] Megalomaniac, Pondview, Colaneri, Sue-Ann Staff, […]

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