What: Strewn Winery
Where: 1339 Lakeshore Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake
Tastings: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Food: Chef/owner Alain Levesque runs a restaurant at the winery called Terroir La Cachette, serving â€œNiagara Provencalâ€ cuisine.
Proprietors: Joe Will and Newman Smith.
Winemaker: Joe Will
Specialties: Strewn makes a broad selection of wines from two vineyards and a collection of purchased grapes from trusted growers. The portfolio is solid through the three tiers and affordably priced from top to bottom.
Must try: Strewn Three 2007 is the top wine at the winery, an exciting classic Bordeaux-style blend that will age gracefully for a long time. Also try Strewn Terroir Cabernet Franc 2007, Strewn Terroir Pinot Blanc 2009 (just released), and Strewn Terroir Riesling 2007.
Availability: Winery, web, WinerytoHome.com and good LCBO/Vintages releases.
Website: Strewn Winery
By Rick VanSickle/Wines In Niagara
Joe Will has come a long way from that first bottle of homemade chokeberry wine he made as a teenaged boy down on the farm.
But a journey must start somewhere and thatâ€™s where it all began for the Strewn Winery founder and co-owner. Along the way, Will took more than a few twists and turns with his career before deciding to make the brave and far from uncertain leap into winemaking and ultimately a full-fledged winery owner with all the bells and whistles.
His journey began as a graduate of Roseworthy Wine College in Australia and, after being the first winemaker at Pillitteri, he and his wife, Jane Langdon, started searching for a suitable location to build a new life in the wine business.
It was an 1930â€™s abandoned cannery building owned by Nabisco and left vacant since the 1960s that caught their eyes.
While Will could see a fabulous winery in the sturdy 50,000 square foot structure and a small five-acre vineyard around the property, Langdon had dreams of establishing a cooking school.
It was â€œa perfect marriage of food and wine,â€ said Langdon during a tour recently.
It would require a major renovation and Will managed to capture the essence of the former cannery for the winemaking functions. Itâ€™s expansive and would make most winemakers envious of the wide-open spaces for crushing grapes, fermenting tanks and barrels.
The first grapes, mostly white varieties, were planted on the estate in 1994 (Will also owns another off-site 22-acre vineyard planted mainly to red grapes) so Strewn would have wine to sell when the winery finally opened in 1997.
Visiting Strewn today, you can see the seamless synergy between the winery, tasting room, separate retail store, cooking school and a gorgeous restaurant called Terroir La Cachette. Itâ€™s a one-stop shopping destination for buying and tasting wine while learning about and eating great local food.
Will says the restaurant and cooking school were always a part of the winery dream. â€œWeâ€™re more of a destination winery. Itâ€™s how you differentiate yourself. And it works.â€
Strewn produces about 23,000 cases of VQA wine at the site, grown from estate and purchased grapes from trusted growers who have long-standing contracts to produce fruit that Will has a hand in deciding yields and ripeness.
Will makes a well-rounded portfolio of wine â€” from interesting and affordable wines right up to long-aging big reds made only in the best vintages, and, of course, a selection of icewines.
Here are some of my favourites from a recent tasting (note all wines available at the winery and LCBO where noted):
Strewn Terroir Riesling 2007 ($17, 4 stars) â€” An evolving nose of petrol, lime, minerals and citrus. Nicely integrated in the mouth with fleshy, ripe citrus-grapefruit fruits working in harmony with petrol and minerals. Nice Riesling to enjoy now.
Strewn Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2007 ($13, LCBO, 3.5 stars) â€” Hard to resist a quality wine at this price. Sweet vanilla and oak aromas with pear and apple fruit in behind. All that follows to the palate with added creamy, buttery flavours.
Strewn Terroir Chardonnay Amalgam 2006 ($25, 4 stars) â€” An elegant, mature Chardy with citrus, apple and creamy, spicy notes on the nose. Lush mouthfeel on the palate with creamy pear fruit and vanilla toast. Tasty wine.
Strewn Cabernet Franc 2007 ($19, 3.5 stars) â€” A lot to like with this red. Rich red fruits, dried herbs and spice on the nose. The palate reveals red and black berries propped up by firm tannins, spice and oak notes. Watch for it to soften with time. I also liked the Terroir Cabernet Franc 2007 ($32, 4.5 stars) with layers of black cherry, raspberry and rich spice treatment. Built to age.
Strewn Cabernet Franc 1998 ($49, 4.5 stars) â€” Willâ€™s wines are noted for their longevity and he likes to hold back some bottles to release at a later date. The 1998 is from a fabulous vintage in Niagara and shows a classic mature Bordeaux nose with cassis, kirsch, plums and gorgeous spice notes. A real pleasure to try an older Cab Franc like this.
Strewn Terroir Three 2006 ($26, 4.5 stars) â€” This is Strewnâ€™s flagship red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and is made only in vintages where the grapes are of very high quality. Wonderful nose of earthy, red fruits and spice. Still a baby on the palate but showing depth of fruit, earth, Espresso, cherry and lavish spices. Drink with food now or save in the cellar.
If you love Niagara wines, you might want to mark June 26 on your calendar for a unique wine tasting at the fabulous new Glendale LCBO store featuring the wines from Fielding Estate Winery.
This is the first in a series of tastings that features an interactive discussion and wine tasting with principals from various wineries who will offer insight into the unique wines being made in Niagara.
The first guests in the series are Curtis and Heidi Fielding, who operate Fielding Estate Winery in Beamsville.
The Fieldings will be pouring the 2008 Riesling and 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay wines, perfect for summer sipping.
This is a unique chance to get up close and personal with the Fieldings who will answer questions and talk about their wines.
The event takes place on Saturday, June 26, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Glendale store, 343 Glendale Ave. There is no charge for this event.