By Bryan Calandrelli, Niagara Region Editor
TasteCamp North 2011 is just around the corner, so I thought it would make sense to introduce some of the wineries and people we'll be meeting during the U.S. portion of the programming.
Niagara USA might not have the international cast of winemakers that you’d find in a more developed region -- yet -- but it boasts a diverse group of pioneers who are collectively proving every day that quality wines can be made on the escarpment north to Lake Ontario.
Duncan Ross of Arrowhead Spring Vineyards:
Duncan Ross’s winemaking obsession inspired him to build a picturesque wine farm on the slopes of the Niagara Escarpment with his wife, Robin, who manages their seven-acre vineyard. This scenic sloping farm hosts the only significant plantings of syrah and malbec in the region.
Duncan is certainly one of the most outspoken personalities in the region when it comes to his belief that Niagara is one of the best places to grow vinifera in the country. He’s been vocal in the debates that are helping to shape the New York wine industry and he’s a frequent commenter on the New York Cork Report. He is also a passionate believer in the red blend, which can be tasted in his winery’s flagship red Meritage.
Duncan also likes his chardonnay fermented in barrels, which coincidentally may be the first wine that 2011 wine attendees sample after the Grand Tasting on Sunday.
In addition to his barrel-fermented estate grown chardonnay and syrah, chances are guests will get to taste his Bordeaux varieties from the barrel. Robin will also discuss vineyard practices and the farm’s ultimate goal of sustainability.
Kurt Guba of Freedom Run Winery:
Kurt Guba has one of the most recognizable faces of any member of the Niagara Escarpment wine industry, and that’s not just because he’s in my “Stump the Goob” video series. A stage actor by trade, he’s not shy when discussing the wines he helps craft at Freedom Run.
As a certified sommelier, Kurt’s driving passion is education. When he’s not climbing on barrels or making sure every tasting room guest gets the most out of their experience, he teaches students at Niagara County Community College’s Culinary Program which has a partnership with Freedom Run to serve as a teaching winery.
Kurt will be waxing on his favorite subject as he guides attendees through an extensive tasting of the winery’s three vineyard blocks of pinot noir. In addition to the heartbreak grape, guests will get to taste barrel samples of cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Attendees will also be the first to sample Freedom Run’s apassimento-style wines currently in barrel.
Jonathan Oakes of Leonard Oakes Estate Winery:
Jonathan Oakes is one of the busiest winemakers in the region.
As a recent graduate of Niagara Teaching College’s Viticulture and Oenology program, he now applies his cool-climate winemaking skills at both Schulze Vineyards and Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, a family winery that’s a part of LynOaken Farms, a large apple producer in the region.
Even though Jonathan is a relatively young winemaker, he’s now responsible for the huge volume of wine made between the two wineries. From vinifera to hybrid and native grapes, still to sparkling, and late harvest to icewine, he shows his versatility while he consistently produces quality wine across a wide spectrum of styles.
Jonathan will be pouring some 2010 reds, whites, sparkling wines, and icewines that have yet to be bottled from both wineries. His presentation will highlight the terroir of the areas north of the escarpment as well as on the similarities and differences between Niagara USA and Ontario growing regions.