Niagara Wine Reviews

Winemaker exudes joy while savouring his wines

WHAT: Konzelmann Estate Winery
WHERE: 1096 Lakeshore Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake.
TASTINGS: 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. daily.
WINEMAKERS: Herbert Konzelmann, Eric Pearson.
OWNER: Herbert Konzelmann.
SPECIALITIES: The strength of this classic winery is in the aromatic white wines — German-style Rieslings, a wonderful Pinot Blanc and Alsatian style Gewurztraminer. The 2006 Vidal icewine made the Wine Spectator Top 100 list in 2008, the first Canadian wine to get mentioned on that coveted list.
MUST TRY: Not sure you’ll find a better Pinot Blanc in Niagara for the price ($11), also try the Gewurztraminer Reserve 2007, 4th Generation Pinot Noir 2007, and the flagship wine, Heritage (red blend) 2007.

WHAT: Brix Chocolate
WHERE TO BUY: Indigo/Chapters and many Niagara wineries including Konzelmann.
WHY: Brix is the first chocolate brand specially designed to match with wine. There are three blends available — milk, dark and extra dark — that pair beautifully with different styles of wine.

By Rick VanSickle

Herbert Konzelmann is a fourth generation wine-maker and the first in the family to leave Germany in search of the next perfect spot to grow grapes. 
 In 1984, he discovered one of the prettiest properties in Niagara, along the shores of Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the- Lake, a spot that reminded him of Alsace, France. Not because of the scenery, but due to the micro-climate, which is similar to Alsace with a wonderful balance of sun, soil, airflow and moisture conditions ideal for making clean, aromatic, fruity wines.

It was a long way from Stuttgart, Germany, where Friedrich Konzelmann, 
 Herbert’s great-grandfather, first established a winery in 1893. But with land running out in German wine country, Herbert made the decision to take the family’s wine roots to the New World. 
 Up in Konzelmann’s spectacular loft in the rebuilt winery, a stunning estate with gorgeous views overlooking the vineyards and a shimmering Lake Ontario, he is like a kid in a candy shop, proudly pulling out bottles of his wine for us to try and match with Brix chocolate samples brought along to taste.

Konzelmann had spread out on a table the vast majority of his 49 wines and starts pouring glass after glass. We taste through the wines, his eyes lighting up when he hits a winner. “Oooh, try this. And this,” he repeats as I try to keep up. Konzelmann’s tastes are obviously still married to Germanstyle Rieslings and Alsatian-style Pinot Blancs and 
 Gewurztraminer. But he’s also put together a fine program of red wines and sweet icewines.

I’m cutting up pieces of Brix chocolate (named after the unit of measurement for the sweetness of grapes), first the extra dark with the big Heritage red blend, which works well, and then with the Cabernet Sauvignon icewine, which is astonishingly hedonistic, matching sweet red berries to bitter bits of dark chocolate. 
 Next up was the medium dark chocolate that paired well with Konzelmann Shiraz and the barrel- aged Merlot.

The final pairing was with the milk chocolate Brix. 
 Konzelmann suggested we try it with his amazing Vidal icewine, a powerful matchup of sweet fruit versus creamy chocolate. It was delicious. But more impressive was the top Winemaster’s Collection Pinot Noir 2007. A sensational taste experience that lingered long on the palate. 
 Konzlemann wanted to go back and try the Vidal icewine with the extra dark chocolate and thought that was the best pairing of all. I couldn’t stop thinking about that dark, bold, red-fruit laden Pinot with the milk chocolate. My, oh my, what a treat. 
 Here are some wine winners from the Konzelmann portfolio now available:

Konzelmann Pinot Blanc 2008 ($11, LCBO) — What a great wine with refreshing apple fruit in an off-dry style. The sweetness is perfect in mouth with balancing acidity and citrus-apple flavours.

Konzelmann Riesling Traminer Special Select Late Harvest 2008 ($30, winery only) — A nose of peach, apricot and tropical fruits. Smooth and honey sweet on the palate with lychee, peach and apricot flavours.

Konzelmann Winemaster’s Collection Chardonnay 2007 ($30, winery only) — Very fine nose of spiced apple and pear. The palate reveals plenty of tropical fruits in an opulent style that shows yummy spice and butter notes.

 Gewurztraminer Late Harvest 2007 ($17, winery only) — If you love Alsatian 
 Gewurztraminer, you will enjoy this wine. Notes of rose petals, grapefruit and subtle lychee nuts on a highly perfumed nose. It’s broad and unctuous on the palate with grapefruit, tropical fruits and honey all leading to a long finish. As Konzelmann said during the tasting: “This wine makes me happy.”

Konzelmann Winemaster’s Collection Pinot Noir Fourth Generation 2007 ($30, winery) — This is a big red with classic barnyard, cassis, black cherry and the lavish spice notes you get in a fine 
 Burgundian Pinot. Cherry, currants and earth combine with fine spice and smooth tannins on the palate. Very fine, indeed.

Konzelmann Winemaster’s Collection Heritage 2007 ($30, winery) — This flagship wine is a big red blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. An earthy nose with all kinds of red and dark fruits. It’s powerful on the palate with earthy notes to go with a wide array of fruits and spices. A powerful red from a blockbuster vintage. One to lay down in the cellar.