WHAT: Hillebrand Winery
WHERE: 1249 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake.
TASTINGS: 10 a. m. to 9 p. m. daily in the summer.
FOOD: Top-notch dining at Hillebrand Winery Restaurant.
WINEMAKER: Darryl Brooker
PROPRIETORS: Andrew Peller Limited.
SPECIALITIES: Trius is one of the most exciting brands made at Hillebrand and it’s always evolving. The Trius Red and White are superb. Also notable is the Showcase wines that, for the most part, are small batches of interesting wines only available at the winery.
MUST TRY: The Trius wines, especially the Bordeaux-style Red, is high on the list of must-try wines made by Brooker. Also try the Trius Brut and any of the several Rieslings, from the entry level to Showcase, are wonderful.
AVAILABILITY: Winery, LCBO, Vineyard Estates wine stores.
By Rick VanSickle
If we’re in the midst of a recession, someone should tell the folks at Hillebrand. Whether it’s the impeccable reputation, the primo location along Niagara Stone Road, the fine wine and dining or a combination of all those things, Andrew Peller’s Niagara jewel is a hustling, bustling hive of activity all summer long. While other wineries in Niagara are feeling the pinch from a sagging economy, Hillebrand’s parking lot is crammed with American and Canadian visitors all elbow to elbow in the tasting rooms and restaurant that make up this first-class winery.
Life is good at Hillebrand. And it has been since opening more than 30 years ago. â€¨ The wine program is one of the most extensive in Ontario and has been guided by some of Niagara’s most notable wine-makers. J-L Groux (now at Stratus) established the Trius brand, Natalie Reynolds (now making extraordinary Riesling at Thirty Bench) took the Chardonnay program to new heights and, now, Darryl Brooker is putting his stamp on the portfolio.
Brooker, born in Canberra, Australia, is a gifted winemaker and has fine-tuned the wine program, building on what others before him started. In a few short years, the wines have shown a marked improvement from top to bottom.
Hillebrand’s VQA wines are made with premium grapes grown in all four of the appellations of Niagara-on-the-Lake and other parts of Niagara. What it can’t grow on its own estate is purchased from more than 20 long-time grape growing partners. Here are the main tiers of wines available.
Artist Series: VQA wines made from grapes grown across Niagara and crafted in an approachable, fruit-driven style. Each bottle label features the original work of an Ontario artist.
Showcase: Hand-made wines made in small quantities that are made to express the character of the soil and the personality of the fruit.
Trius: The classic Trius Red is made from the estate’s best Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. Over the years, the Trius family has evolved to include the best selling single varietal red and white wines which showcase the unique, rich terrior of Niagara. â€¨ Here are some great wines that are now available at the winery, on the website and at the LCBO if noted.
Trius Brut ($25, LCBO, ) â€” Made in the Champagne style, this non-vintage sparkler is 70 per cent Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Noir. Plenty of citrus zip on the nose with yeast, apple and toast following. Very nice bubbly with good citrus-apple notes and lively acidity to refresh the palate.
Hillebrand Artist Series Limited Edition Pinot Gris 2008 ($17) â€” If you like Pinot Gris you will love this limited edition wine that you can only get by driving to the winery. With a nose of tropical fruit, apple, banana, pear and apricot and soft vanilla notes, this is a wine that’s dripping in fruit. And the assault continues on the palate with soft peach, tropical fruits, vanilla and spice to round it out. Very nice.
Hillebrand Showcase Riesling Ghost Creek Vineyard 2008 ($25) â€” This single-vineyard Riesling, from what is amounting to be a surprisingly great vintage, possesses a sensational nose of white peach, pineapple, tropical fruits and nice minerality. It’s downright electrifying on the palate with bracing acidity followed by lime, citrus and peach all focused and pure in the mouth. It starts with a hint of honey and finishes dry. Among the best Rieslings of the vintage so far.
Trius White 2008 ($20, ) â€” Trius White is a crazy blend of several white varieties that somehow all comes together in the bottle. The nose is pretty with a lot of stuff going on– apple, citrus, pear, tropical fruits and lychee. The mouth shows a blast of fruit with creamy-nutty notes that kick in on the long finish. Another beauty.
Hillebrand Showcase Merlot Carlton Vineyard 2006 ($35) â€” Really fine nose of dominating black cherry with a spicy-savoury-leather note that follows. Nicely integrated red with plum, cherry, anise and spice flavours all leading to a smooth finish. â€¨