Niagara Wine Reviews

Sensational winery leaves nothing to chance

WHAT: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
WHERE: 1366 York Rd., St. Davids.
TASTINGS: The new tasting room in Woodruff House is open seven days a week from 11 a. m. to 6 p. m.
FOOD: Celebrity chefs Anna and Michael Olson run a fabulous gourmet bakery and deli on the property called Olson Foods at Ravine.
WINEMAKER: Peter Gamble.
PROPRIETORS: Blair and Norma Harber.
SPECIALITIES: The Riesling made here has already reached cult-like status in only its second vintage. The Bordeaux red varietals — especially the Merlot — are exceptional.
MUST TRY: Ravine Reserve Merlot 2007, Ravine Riesling 2008 (untasted but much anticipated), Ravine Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.
AVAILABILITY: Winery and on-line only.

By Rick VanSickle

It’s the newest sweet spot in Niagara. A tiny oasis in St. Davids where everything has come together so perfectly. 
 It is steeped in history, farms a small 20-acre patch of superb vineyards and employs a winemaker with a proven track record. But most importantly, the wines. And, oh, the wines! The entire portfolio is sensational.

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery is a discovery for the senses. A winery that, right out of the gate, is sought after by wine lovers looking for the very best premium wines from Niagara. 
 Nothing at Ravine is by accident. Each step along the way has been carefully orchestrated. 
 Critical to the feel of the property is the winery’s historic tasting room.

Woodruff House was once a forgotten landmark in St. Davids that was originally built in 1802 but torched by American invaders during the War of 1812. It was rebuilt in 1827 and went through various transformations until it was dismantled and moved to Caledon. The house, including bricks and hearth, was resold and moved a few more times before Ravine owners, Blair and Norma Harber, bought it and moved it to the property and reconstructed the gorgeous building very close to the original site. 
 A 1920s-style packing shed, next door to Woodruff House, is home to a deli, bakery and fabulous food emporium run by Anna and Michael Olson, where oven-fresh bread, pizza and deliciously fresh, local foods are made.

Plans calls for a full restaurant on the edge of the upper vineyards and a gravity-fed winery to be built off a wing of the tasting room. 
 While the historic buildings and deli are attractions unto themselves, it is the wines that will put this winery on the map. 
 In the vineyards, what is striking is the low-yielding vines winemaker Peter Gamble insists on. All the vines on the carefully laid out and sloping property are planted according to soil samples best suited for each varietal.

All estate grapes from this organic-certified winery are hand-picked, sorted and vinified in separate batches with most varietals barrel fermented before being aged in oak barriques. 
 It’s an expensive operation, but the results are phenomenal. Some very fine wines, showing off the terroir of the vineyard, are being crafted at Ravine in tiny quantities (2,700 cases). Here are some of the best wines being made at Ravine.

Ravine Vineyard Redcoat 2007 ($19, 1 /2) — For an entry-level wine this red Bordeaux varietal blend shows rich cherry-cassis notes on the nose. On the palate the plush tannins are obvious with big cherry and spice flavours.

Ravine Vineyard Meritage 2007($24, ) — The blend is mainly Cabernet Franc with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Such big aromas of mocha spice, kirsch (a predominate characteristic of the Merlot from this property) and wild berries all beneath the elegance of oak. This is a structured wine that’s tight and youthful.

Ravine Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2007 ($55) — A restrained red that pretty much defines the estate. The nose reveals oak, toast, spice and extracted cherry-kirsch notes. The mouth is outlandishly delicious and powerful with thick cherry-berry flavours and layers of cocoa, vanilla, toast, licorice, spice and complexity that evolves in the glass. Decant for two hours or cellar.

Ravine Vineyard Riesling 2007 ($28, sold out but the 2008 should be available about the time you read this) — A lemon-lime powerhouse that draws its personality from 25% botrytis-affected grapes. This is such a unique and utterly profound wine with honey, mineral, peach, lime, quince flavours and wonderful mouth-feel.

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 Niagara Peninsula ($24) — A nose of apples, tropical fruit, coconut and butterscotch. It’s creamy and focused on the palate with pear-apple and tropical fruit all stitched together with toasty French oak.