Tag Archives: Westcott Vineyards

Visiting Niagara Region Day 1 – #SundaySips

17 Apr

This was playing while I composed this and it seems appropriate…….’cause we are taking the car or bicycle to Jordan.

Spring has finally arrived.

And Spring deserves a road trip. My favourite road trip that doesn’t require a road map for me is down to Niagara to visit some of the most underrated wineries around. “How underrated are they?” Well, I get the Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits and I can’t remember when they have ever mentioned a Canadian, let alone Niagara, wine. Decanter did a  nice piece with a Canadian wine on the front cover. But generally, Niagara is the Rodney Dangerfield of wine. Even here in Ontario, I have friends who wouldn’t consider a wine from Niagara regardless of my strong recommendation – they just don’t even want to try it – they know they don’t like it. Let me repeat that – “regardless of my strong recommendation”. Are you shitting me? If I, Duff, recommend it, you can abso-friggin-lutely count on the fact that…………….I’m going to like it a lot. And, by extension, maybe you will too.

I get the lack of air play and respect for Niagara, I think. Low volumes, low brand recognition, strong competition in all categories, and many of their better wines’ price point. There’s lots of noise for a wine consumer to navigate.

I want to provide a bit of a guidebook to a tour of Niagara. And after you’ve taken it literally (or in the comfort of your own home) and sampled their offerings, you make up your own mind.

As I see it, Wineville Niagara is laid out like this – there are the wineries you visit on the way to or from (Niagara Escarpment/Twenty Valley) and those that you visit when you have unloaded your stuff in a lovely inn or bed and breakfast in or near that tony village – Niagara-On-The-Lake. If you try to mix it up, there are issues related to time pressure, confusion, wrong turns, marital discord, and potential DUI convictions. Trust me – I know this. And, it’s important to sample wines from both of these larger chunks. So, don’t miss either.

The lens I’m using is one that takes into consideration travel time (assuming a couple days at least) and the experience that you’ll have (both wine and atmosphere). And, it’s my blog so these wineries and dining places are from my own experience and are tailored to my palate and taste. There are 88 wineries in Niagara and some will be horribly disappointed that they don’t get a mention on this heavily subscribed blog but here’s a hint for them: it’s easily rectified with an invitation to a tasting/tour and free swag for Duff. After all, I am that easily bought. Here we go.

Before we start, make sure you’ve done a little research. I’ve listed one solid resource at the bottom of the page. For restaurants and accommodations, of course, there are the usual suspects TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. Also, I’m trying out a new app called Winery Passport. Let me know if you use it and opinion.

First Day (on the way to NOTL)

A good mix of wineries from large to artisanal, from Riesling to Pinot to Viognier to Chardonnay. I’m somewhat travelling towards NOTL from Hamilton:

Leaning Post – 1491 Hwy 8 Stoney Creek, ON Tel: 905-643-9795 http://www.leaningpostwines.com Artisanal winery – taking grapes from small plots throughout the area. Great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay but also make Gamay, Riesling. Up and coming.

rosewood

Rosewood Winery

Rosewood Estates Winery – 4352 Mountainview Road, Beamsville, ON Tel: 905-563-4383 http://www.rosewoodwine.com Lovely winery situated amongst several others (Angel’s Gate, Thirty Bench – so you could kill a flock with one stone). They have an apiary and make mead as well as very nice Riesling (MS), Pinot Noir, and Merlot. And, they had a senior dog when last I was there. I pay attention to this kind of detail. Check to see if they are having a wedding there before you go.

Daniel Lenko Estate Winery – 5246 King Street West, Beamsville ON Tel: 905-563-7756 http://www.danilelenko.com Great Old Vines Chardonnay, Heritage, Merlot, and a few takes on Viognier which are interesting (many barrel and bottle aged e.g.. 07’s and ’08’s available) family style presentation, family run grape growers from way back. Great down home vibe.

Vineland Estates – 3620 Moyer Road, Vineland ON Tel: 1-888-846-3526 http://www.vineland.com Beautiful  tasting room/reception centre, tour, etc. Exceptional restaurant. Specializes in Riesling for my money although other varieties are available.

The Malivoire Wine Company – 4260 King Street East, Beamsville ON Tel: 1-866-644-2244 http://www.malivoire.com I wrote about Malivoire here. Chardonnays, Gamay, Foch, Rosé.

Tawse Winery – 3955 Cherry Avenue, Vineland ON Tel: 905-562-9500 http://www.tawsewinery.ca I wrote a bit about Tawse here. They make exceptional terroir-driven Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Cab Francs. Solid Riesling too.

Flatrock Cellars – 2727 Seventh Avenue, Jordan ON Tel: 1-855-994-8994 http://www.flatrockcellars.com I wrote about Flat Rock here. They have a beautiful reception area, reasonably priced and tasty Chardonnays, Pinots, and a great Riesling (Nadja’s Vineyard). Great vibe. You can see all the way down to the lake and across to Toronto on a clear day.

Westcott Vineyards – 3180 Seventeenth Street, Jordan ON Tel: 905-562-7517 http://www.westcottvineyards.com A family-run boutique winery specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can read what I wrote about Westcott here. I believe that on weekends in the summer, there is a nice bistro-like place to sit and get some local food.

creeksideCreekside Estate Winery – 2170 Fourth Avenue, Jordan ON Tel: 1-877-262-9436 http://www.creeksidewine.com Summertime weekends (check web site) there’s a great casual bistro – The Deck – that offers light stuff. Good place to pause particularly if you are cycling. Creekside has a counter-culture vibe. To that end, they grow and make Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz (not even calling it Syrah which is de rigeur here).

Bonus Coverage: Dillion’s Small Batch Distillers – 4833 Telford Road, Beamsville ON Tel: 905-563-3030 Yes there is a distillery in Beamsville. Dillon’s makes exceptional gin, oak-aged Canadian rye whisky (white), vodka, bitters, and absinthe.

Note: All wineries, and Dillon’s, charge a tasting fee. In most cases they waive that should you purchase. If you want to be sure, ask.

Where to Eat

OnThe Twenty – 3836 Main Street, Jordan ON Tel: 905-562-7313 Can’t recommend this highly enough. Exceptional takes on classics and seasonal, local stuff. Upscale

Vineland Estates – Address above Tel: 1-888-846-3526 ext. 33 Inventive cuisine, good pairing program. Upscale

Jordan House Tavern – I wrote about this here. Traditional roadhouse fare. Craft beers, local wines.

Where to Stay in Jordan

Inn On The Twenty – 1-800-701-8074 http://www.innonthetwenty.com Upside is that it’s in Jordan which means quiet and close to wineries. Downside is that there is limited nightlife.

Where to Stay in NOTL

riverbendinn

Riverbed Inn

http://www.vintage-hotels.ca  several upscale establishments. My fave is The Prince of Wales – good dining room, spa). These are all upscale.

River Bend Inn http://www.riverbedinn.ca (winery, a bit out of the town, beautiful setting, exclusive feel)

Oban Inn http://www.oban.com Lovely inn rebuilt from the ruins of the original that burned down a decade or so ago, good dining

BranCliff Inn http://www.brancliffinn.com (close to the theatre and main drag)

Bed and Breakfast There are a zillion bed and breakfasts. I’d recommend one of the heritage homes on a side street or down by the river

Resources:

Wineries, local map, info: http://www.winecountryontario.ca/niagara-escarpment-twenty-valley

In a couple weeks in another #SundaySips, we will explore NOTL or Niagara-on-the Lake

 

 

 

Westcott Vineyards Redux #SundaySips

17 Jan
westcottdoor

Westcott Vineyards

In the fall of 2014, I posted a piece on my visit to Westcott Vineyards in Niagara. You can read it here. Summary for those of you too lazy to click through and boost my numbers: a new family endeavour focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – very cool winery building, balanced Pinots and judiciously buttery Chardonnays and a great story.

This past fall, I wanted to drop back in and hear about their winter, spring, harvest, plans for the future, and taste some of their new releases. It was a day that reminded me that winter was in fact going to be a reality. Windy, cool, and overcast. I arrived mid-afternoon (entrance door above) and the place had several folks in tasting and the fire warming the room – Emma greeting everyone as they arrived.

Emma

Emma

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned my fondness for dogs. Emma was a sweetheart and very interested in meeting you, seeing if you could spare a pat or two or, if she was really lucky, a treat. And, she was a Lab. I really love Labs and am starting to well up as I type.

Victoria Westcott set me up with a few tasters as she dealt with the other patrons and I sat watching the fire – tasting and loving it. I love my life.

Once everyone was gone, Victoria and I stood and talked through their portfolio, the savages of the past winter and their ambitions for the coming years. Her brother Garett joined us. Garett is the Ass’t Vineyard Manager (according to their website). But, seeing as this is a family operation, I sense that he is a lot more than that. He had a solid sense of what had been going on both in the vineyard and the winery and took a lot of ownership, it seemed to me.

Where was I? Oh yeah, talking to the Westcotts and sipping wine. How cool is it when you can deal with the family that owns, runs, and markets the winery? Answer? Very cool.

The winter of ’14-15 was harsh. Despite burying many of the vines a la The County (#PEC), a portion of the vines were lost. That is so unfortunate and given that Westcott is one of the few here that bury, I’m interested in the damage across the vineyards in Vinemount Ridge.

The wines? Please wait. Let me ramble a bit first.

Westcott has had a partnership with Zooma this past year. Zooma was a small and groovy bistro in Jordan that catered to the locals and visitors over the past many years. they closed up that operation but set up a neat resto, outdoor patio thing at Westcott. If you’ve been to Norman Hardy, this has a similar vibe to that. Although, I sensed that the menu was a bit more expansive here. Well, cool (read: cold) weather set in and the two partners decided to try a Friday night sip, eat, sit around the fireplace thing. I wish that I lived closer so that I could take advantage of this. The day I was there (a Friday), they were set up for a menu of – ham and barley soup, lobster grilled cheese, a charcuterie plate, and pecan pie. Take a look at the picture below and imagine sitting there drinking a glass of Pinot Noir with that lobster grilled cheese.

Westcott Fireplace

Westcott Fireplace – Maybe the you would have figured out the ‘Westcott’ part on your own

violetteThe wines? Well, although Westcott focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they do have some fun with other stuff. They have a bubbly called NV Westcott Violette #438200 $24.95. When I used to think of sparkling Niagara wines, I had a bit of a gag reflex. I remember those dark days of Cold Duck (which, if I was honest, I thought was pretty tasty when I was 20. Later? Not so much). So, consequently, I haven’t ventured into that territory until recently. Wineries such as Henry of Pelham (Cuvée Catherine) and Flat Rock Cellars have changed my impression. They do sparkling pretty well in Niagara now. The Violette is no exception. Dry, toasty, crisp, extremely light. We’re talking, “Hi, glad you came. Here’s a glass of something to get started. Help yourself to the popcorn and sushi.” That type of wine.

Their rosé – 2013 Westcott Delphine $15, which I don’t see on http://www.vintages.com so am assuming that it’s not available at the LCBO but only at the cellar door. Have I told you about my love of rosé? Of course I have. This rosé in 2013 was a blend of Cab Franc, Pinot Noir and Merlot. It’s darker berries, dry, with a clean acidic finish. I love rosé all year but suggest that this is a summer wine. Get the umbrella on the patio, some snacks with tomato or shellfish and pour this out!

Now, the main events – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

They have an unoaked Chardonnay – 2013 Westcott Lillias #425322 $20  that I didn’t taste as I swallow most of my sips and was a 2 hour drive from home. I wanted to focus on Westcott’s sweet spot. Yes Shannon, I can be responsible.

There are two levels of Pinots and Chardonnays – Reserve and Estate. Victoria tempted me with two oaked Chardonnays:

The 2013 Westcott Estate Chardonnay #427484 $26

The 2014 Lenko Old Vines Chardonnay $

estatechardoI love Daniel Lenko’s own Old Vines Chardonnay in  most years. It has cellaring potential and usually has a lot of stuffing. In the case of Westcott’s take, I have to tell you that I preferred their Estate. Which is a high compliment in my books. It was leaner and had a bit of The County in it – minerals, citrus but still some vanilla/butter notes – particularly on the nose and finish – from 12 months in 2/3 new French oak. This is the direction that I believe should be taken in Niagara. Stay with oak but somehow let the ridge or bench come through. If I knew how that could be done, I’d be less directional and more prescriptive in my comments.

The Westcott Pinots were what I had really come for. I loved them last vintages and was hoping that weather or fate wouldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I tasted three:

The 2012 Westcott Estate Pinot Noir $30

The 2013 Westcott Estate Pinot Noir $30

The 2013 Westcott Reserve Pinot Noir $46

estatepnHere’s the thing. Last time I was there, I bought a few of the 2012 Estate. Loved it. Can’t put my finger on exactly why. This time? Same thing. I could talk about the vintage – you know “wet in some month, warmed up in time….” You wouldn’t really, truly care, would you? It might be a bit bullshit as well. Sometimes, there’s no explanation regardless of the scribes and eonologists. But, let’s talk about all of them anyway.

The 2012 Estate (did I tell you it was my favourite?) had a Burgundian/lean/power feel to me. Cherries, loads of earthy notes on the finish – lip smacking acidity. I remember having the same experience in #PEC – loving the leaner efforts. It might be why I tend to focus on Prince Edward County, Oregon and Burgundy.

I think that the 2013 Reserve, needs a few years to find it’s way, knit together and find a theme. It definitely hinted at power and fruit but all hidden for my palate at the moment. I wanted to wait on it but that’s what Burgundy is for – unrequited wait and wait. The 2012 Estate, on the other hand is perfect now and still could handle another few years down below. Or, I could return to Westcott in a couple years and hope they still have a few bottles of the 2013 Reserve left.

The 2013 Estate was reserved (pardon the pun) as well. It doesn’t have the spunk that the Reserve has but I still think it will evolve nicely. Perhaps showing that it was a riper harvest with lusher fruit. More lush fruit? Remind me not to use the term ‘lush’ again.

I’m not sure you can go wrong with any of the Westcott Pinot Noirs. The last time that I was here, I expected a more assertive style portfolio and was a little surprised at the restraint. It’s kind of like watching a movie that you were told had juicy parts and you find out…….Never mind. This time, I was ready for it. You have to love restraint when it’s executed this well – letting the weather, land, and fate tell the story not the house style.

I could tell you more but my word count tells me that you are very close to clicking away.

If you’re looking for tour bus styled tasting rooms and little mugs and other souvenir ……………um,……shit to take home, avoid Westcott. But, if you’re like me and you want the wine and the people to take centre stage, make sure you get to Westcott and tell them I sent you. there might be a pat of Emma or a free bottle in it for me.

They can be reached through the website http://www.westcottvineyards.com . The website has purchasing functionality and you can sign up for emails about what’s happening there.

Previously Unexplored Wineries – Westcott Vineyards

15 Oct

 

westcott logo

Two weeks ago, I penned a post on winery 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 series.

One of the great things about wandering in Niagara is the surprise discovery. For me, it’s usually a wine. But on this day, it was a whole winery. Wine communities tend to co-promote. At first glance, it’s counterintuitive. A car dealership doesn’t tell you that you’ll find a great SUV at another dealership, do they? Well, my experience in several wine regions of the world is that wineries are supportive of each other. The effect of cross-pollination of staff, families, and winemakers? They all party together? A small community experiencing symbiotic bliss? Or, maybe they just want you to find what you like and are only too willing to point you in that direction. It’s Miracle on 34th Street Kris Kringle-esque. Let’s hope that doesn’t change. The alternative is a tasting room with shady staff leaning in and whispering, “Hey, dos guys up da road? Dare pinot? It’s cut. Dey cut the pinot with syrah. You can’t trust ’em. Ours is puuure Niagara pinot. Good sh** (wink, wink)” Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, being referred to Westcott Vineyards. We were tweaked to its very existence by Ted, our personal sip and spit tour guide at Flat Rock Cellars (which I’ll feature later in a post). Ted told us that Westcott made mostly pinot noir and chardonnay, both in a pretty assertive style. Umm, who likes assertive chardonnay? So, we had to wander over to Westcott which is in the same neighbourhood as Sue-Ann Staff’s and Flat Rock Cellar – maybe a kilometre away.

wextcott barn

Westcott Vineyards is a family run winery. When we were there Victoria and Garrett Westcott, daughter and son of the owners, were in the tasting room. Well, in fact, they were the only winery reps in the tasting room. What you need to know is that the concept at Westcott is natural, uncomplicated with a bit of rusticity thrown in. The winery and tasting/sales room is in a restored barn (picture above) that we were informed was moved from another location. Long harvest tables made with reclaimed wood and cement floors. It would be quite toasty when the fire is on. And, similarly to Sue-Ann Staff’s, it really presents the wine as agricultural produce not alchemy. I didn’t see farm implements but I had a feeling that they were lurking somewhere not too far away – gravel drive which is de rigeur in Niagara. Their website and personal sales pitch is focused on ‘small’. They don’t make a ton of wine and they allow the vintage to dictate what they can get out of the vineyard. No attempt to make every vintage taste the same. They get winemaking assistance from a Bordelais.

 

wesrcotttastingroom

Westcott Tasting Room

Before I get in to the wines I have to mention the boat. Their trademark and many of the references in the names of wines have to do with a restored boat found on the shores of a lake in Quebec at a family cottage, I believe. It has some historical connection to someone famous as well as to the Westcott family but I had already been to three wineries before this and had ditched the pen and paper; so the details escape me.  The boat is one of those grand old wood craft that plied the lakes of Muskoka, Quebec and New England during the heydays of cottage and resort development. This one – and I saw pictures – is spectacular! Well, anyway there’s a very important connection to the boat and it’s people. I just can’t remember it. Note to winery webmaster: put a word or two about the boat on winery’s web site.

Victoria took us through a tasting. Again, there’s a tasting fee here but refundable with purchase.

The wines:

Westcott_2012_Estate_Chardonnay-124x3592012 Estate Chardonnay $26.00 – Although this wine has had some time in oak (ferment and age) it doesn’t present as oaky in the glass. Lots of apple pie though – classic oaked chardonnay nose. In the mouth, the oak is faint and the apple replays with an assertive finish – a hit of acidity. Some creaminess but not a big chardonnay. Nice sipper for me. Dinner wine for The Director. ABV 13.5%.

2012 Estate Pinot Noir $30.00 – I was expecting this to be one of those big 2000’s California-style pinots after Ted’s claim of assertiveness. But, I was surprised at how restrained it was. Now I find that after a lengthy day tasting, my palate, which is a bit sketchy anyway, gets lazy Westcott_2012_Pinot_Estate2-124x359and maybe I need wines then that are unlike what I’ve been tasting before. So, I question myself when a wine doesn’t translate from swish to sip. But this wasn’t that. This seemed to be asleep, if that makes sense. This wine had some great things going on in the glass (earthiness, bushes, and strawberries) but it didn’t translate in my mouth. This usually means for me that it needs air or time in bottle or both. It, unlike the chardonnay above, carried some heat from the modest ABV of 13.5%. I think that this wine will start to show it’s best stuff in a few years (3 – 5) or two innings of post season baseball in the glass.

Westcott_2012_Reserve_Chardonnay-124x3592012 Reserve Chardonnay $29.00 – This chardonnay was more serious, maybe austere, than the Estate. It held somewhat the same flavour profile fruit-wise – maybe some tropical notes added – a lot more integration of the oak – more balanced. The oak didn’t so much stand out as simply provide the foundation for the fruit. It was more restrained than I had expected. I would favourably compare this to any other oaked, upper-tier Niagara chardonnay. I noticed on their web site that this has a little less alcohol (13%). Top drawer effort for oaked chardonnay lovers. But in no way did we think it over-shadowed the Estate – just different. We, in fact, purchased the Estate. Maybe because of my pinot noir choice below. Weary wallet syndrome?

Westcott_2012_Pinot_Reserve2-124x3592012 Reserve Pinot Noir $46 – I hate it when my favourite wine costs the most. So, why was this my favourite? Well, first of all – the aroma in the glass had pronounced dirty stuff. I love dirty stuff. Oh behave, let me clarify – dirty stuff, for me, as in smelling or tasting like a musty shovel of loam – kind of. I know that most wine geeks would use earthy instead and dirty is not a desirable aroma or flavour, so maybe I’ll switch to that from now on. A friend of mine has told me that he doesn’t fancy pinot noir because of the ‘earthy’ stuff. I love it because of the earthy stuff! This wine delivered more on that earthy nose than the Estate. It opened quickly and had pronounced red fruit in the mouth. It delivered on Ted’s claim that Westcott pinots were assertive. I liked this a lot. Unfortunately for my bank account, they had plenty in stock. I would have opened one of these for Thanksgiving dinner but want to leave them to figure out what they’ll become when they grow up..

There are several other wines on offer at Westcott – a rosé (Delphine), an unoaked chardonnay (Lillias), and I believe they just released a sparkler (Violette) using the charmat method. At press time (always wanted to say that), there is no availability of their products at the LCBO. You can purchase their wines at the cellar door (call 905-562-7517 email info@westcottvineyards.com ahead) or on-line at http://www.westcottvineyards.com/shop/

Glad Ted gave us the heads up on Westcott Vineyards – a great addition to my Vinemount rotation. Get thee to a winery near you!

Images courtesy of the winery.

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