What’s in The County’s Wine Barrels?
When I am putting pen to paper for this article, and yes, I actually do put pen to paper, it is the dead of winter, late February, and the vines are dormant, taking their winter nap readying themselves for their spring awakening. The other napping entity within a winery are the wines, those in barrels and those in tanks, waiting for that perfect time when they will transfer from their current large vessel to those smaller ones (bottles) in which we consumers can buy them; but what are we waiting for, what's in those barrels and tanks worth getting excited about?
I asked all of Prince Edward County’s wineries to tell me what they have lurking in their cellars and here is what I found out.
First, winemakers are extremely private folks...not a lot wanted to reveal what they have sitting in their cellars, but those who did, offered up some pretty exciting descriptions for what wines are coming up next.
Second, winemakers love talking about the weather and have differing opinions on how a vintage was, though in truth they are saying the same thing – while others have no words at all.
And third, while responses were sparse...I really thought more would want to say something about their upcoming wines...The County continues to be an exciting place to explore and taste wines and with some of the wines that are soon to hit shelves I would say it is going to be an exciting year, and hopefully we can all get out there to taste them.
So as Shakespeare would say, “Read on,” McDuff.
Let's start with a vintage recap summed up succinctly by Keith Tyers, winemaker at Closson Chase, who broke down 2018, 2019 & 2020 like this:
“2018 - Hot vintage…Pinot Noirs are fruit forward, showing the heat of the summer, Chardonnays are ripe, lower in acid than the 19 or the 20. I think these will be the first of the three to drink.
2019 - Cool vintage…cold start to the year put the vines behind; however, a spectacular September/October allowed us to achieve ripeness and keep all that County acidity. Pinot Noir showing fruit, florals and earth tones with great acidity. Chardonnays are crisp, with white tree fruits and great County minerality.
2020…almost perfect…mild winter, warm spring, long dry sun filled summer, rain at the right times and a dry September to harvest in. Wines are showing well now with great colour and concentration in the Pinot Noirs and beautiful fresh fruit and lively minerality in the Chardonnays.”
With all that said, what are Prince Edward County winemakers and proprietors looking forward to most? Lee Baker at Redtail has a 2020 “County Crush” that has him quite excited: "It's a field blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir that underwent natural carbonic maceration for ten days...a bit of an experiment, but I'm so happy how it turned out."
Heidi over at Del-Gatto Estates looks to repeat their double gold at the County-based All Canadian Wine Championships for their Vidal, but it's a County staple grape that has her most excited: "We went rogue" she says with some degree of sarcasm, "releasing a Pinot Noir from Devil's Wishbone Vineyard." Turns out they have not released, or made, a Pinot in "several years and the opportunity was there." They also have a collaboration with the County Cider Company "for a wine / cider infusion [that's] perfect for summertime."
Mackenzie Brisbois at Trail Estate is always "the most excited about the current [vintage]."
"We teamed up with friends to craft their first vintage from a forgotten vineyard just a few kilometers north of us," she reports; "tasting delicious" is all she'll say about what is resting in that barrel.
Over at Keint-he, Bryan Rogers has no comment about the vintage, but he's got a two-barrel Pinot Noir called "Cluster Pluck" from 2019 that was whole cluster fermented and saw no fining or filtering - "keeping it real" he calls it. "Not too hard and not too soft. Just right."
On the white side, there's a 2020 Chardonnay from the Beamsville Bench grown at Fielding Vineyard that has him excited: "picked ripe, fermented in puncheon [large barrels], twenty-five percent new [that's] incredibly tropical [that's sure] to have broad appeal."
Finally, we return to Closson Chase, where Keith is jazzed about a Pinot Gris from their Ridge Vineyard, “it's first crop” - he calls the fruit that came off in 2020 "perfect"...The 2019 Chardonnays also stick in his head, "they have great structure, really good balance and tightness." He ends with another signature of Closson Chase, Pinot Noir: "the 2020 Pinot Noirs are dark like ink."
There's lots to get excited about in The County...the wines that are coming have winemakers excited, which means as consumers we should be doubly-so, because winemakers are notoriously tough on their own work.