Niagara Wine Reviews

Brothers work together to create Sibling Rivalry

WHAT: Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery.
WHERE: 1469 Pelham Rd., St. Catharines.
TASTINGS: 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. daily.
WINEMAKER: Ron Giesbrecht.
PROPRIETORS: Paul, Matthew and Daniel Speck.
SPECIALITIES: “Baco Noir is what put us on the map,” says Daniel Speck. The winery excels with this unique Niagara varietal. Henry of Pelham also crafts sensational Rieslings right up the ladder to the Riesling sweet wines and has a solid portfolio of red wines that are consistently delicious vintage to vintage.
MUST TRY: Cuvee Catharine Brut is a fantastic Niagara sparkling wine. Also ask for the exciting botrytisaffected Riesling. And ask for the Speck Family Reserve Cabernet- Merlot 2002, it’s out of this world.

By Rick VanSickle

Standing inside Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery’s brand spanking new barrel cellar with Daniel Speck, you get the sense that this family-founded, family-run operation is not content with just standing still. 
 It’s dark, cool and damp in the barrel room with 1,200 oak barriques stacked to the ceiling. There’s plenty of room for more of these expensive barrels that are coopered in the U. S., France, Hungary and Canada. Which is a good thing, because Henry of Pelham is a growing concern.

Its successful debut of Sibling Rivalry Red and White wines has done gangbusters not only in Ontario but right across the country, says Speck. It’s already in all provinces from Ontario to B. C. and is now moving to Quebec and the East. 
 It’s a nifty brand that has hit a nerve with consumers. Whether it’s the price ($14), the funky design of the label or the delicious blend of grapes for both the red and white, Sibling Rivalry has taken off in just its first vintage.

The idea was born when the brothers — Paul, Matthew and Daniel — were sitting around brainstorming and wondered: “What’s the next thing for Henry,” says Daniel. “Let’s do something new, something cool climate and New World.” 
 The idea for a multi-varietal blend (both the red and white Sibling wines are a blend of several grapes) was dreamed up and the brilliant marketing plan and playful label design created the perfect package that’s distinctive and easy to spot on store shelves.

It even has its own website that explains the entire story of how the brand was born ( 
 The new label hasn’t diminished what already is a solid portfolio of wines at Henry that has been divided into neat, easy to identify tiers from top to bottom. 
 The tiers start with Sibling Rivalry (really a brand onto itself) and move up to the varietal series, then the reserve wines and finally the Speck Family Reserve wines that represent the best of what Henry of Pelham is producing.

There are also the icewine, late harvest and botrytis-affected programs that play a large role at the winery. And, the Cuvee Catharine Brut sparkling wine that is a staple on many a wine lover’s table. 
 Henry of Pelham uses more than 70 per cent of its own estate grapes grown in the Short Hills Bench sub-appellation and buys the rest from trusted growers, mainly from bench vineyards. 
 Here are some wines that are highly recommended. All available at the winery and LCBO where noted:

Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry Red and White ($14, LCBO) — The Brothers Speck get wild and crazy with these two debut wines. The red is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s loaded with bright cherry, plum, herbs, tar and licorice notes. The white is a mix of Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. Some big, ripe flavours of apple, pear, melon and spice.

Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut ($30, LCBO) — A fine citrus-apple nose with lime and toasty notes. Bright lemon and lime pastry flavours fill the mouth of this crisp and delicious bubbly.

Henry of Pelham Riesling Reserve Off-Dry 2007 ($16, Vintages) — Citrus, grapefruit, peach, apple notes on the nose. It’s zesty and firm on the palate with good acidity to balance off the honey sweetness. This is a go-to Niagara Riesling that impresses each and every vintage.

Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2007 ($17, LCBO) — A delicate and pretty Pinot with bright cherry and savoury notes on the nose. The palate reveals a silky texture with cherry and red currant fruit.

Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir 2005 ($25, Vintages) — A deep, dark and savoury beauty of a wine and one of the benchmark Bacos in Niagara. Scents of wildberries, plums, cherry with gamy-spicy notes that follow. Black cherry-plum and pepper notes flood the palate with layers of spice. Still could get better with some bottle age.