Niagara Wine Reviews

A grower’s winery is born in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Barrel sampling at PondView with owner Lou Puglisi

What: PondView Estate Winery

Where: 925 Line 2, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Tastings: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Proprietors: Lou and Adriana Puglisi.

Winemaker: Fred DiProfio.

Specialties: PondView is brand new and comes out of the gate with some pretty nice wines driven by excellent estate fruit (the Puglisi family has been growing grapes for nearly four decades in Niagara). Watch for the barrel aged Chardonnays this fall. Try the Cabernet Franc Icewine 2009, the Riesling, the Cabernet 2008 (only a few cases left) and the lovely Cabernet Franc Rose 2009.

Availability: Winery only for now.

Website: Still under construction but will be PondView

By Rick VanSickle

The last thing PondView Estate Winery owner Lou Puglisi wanted to do was to open his new winery with a mediocre portfolio of wines.

Barrel sampling at PondView with owner Lou Puglisi
Barrel sampling at PondView with owner Lou Puglisi

“You’ve got one shot at a first impression,” said Puglisi during a recent visit to the Niagara-on-the-Lake winery. “I wanted to exceed and and surpass people’s expectations.”

It’s pretty safe to say that PondView has come out of the gate with an impressive portfolio of wines that will only continue to get better and bigger as new varieties and oak-aged wines get added to the lineup.

Puglisi is new to the wine making and retail side of the wine business but is definitely no stranger to growing vines. The third-generation grape grower and former “Grape King” has been supplying fruit in Niagara for nearly four decades, ever since his father, Joe, planted their first vineyard in the early 70s. The honorary Grape King title is bestowed on a grower each year by the Ministry of Agriculture for the finest vineyard operator in Ontario.

PondView has the luxury of only producing wines from grapes grown on the 50-acre estate from the Four-Mile Creek appellation. “We plan to process what we grow,” he said as we toured his vineyard that backs onto the winery and his own home next door.

The new winery at PondView
The new winery at PondView

Puglisi’s plan is to keep it relatively small, 7,500 to 8,000 cases at its peak (he made 2,800 cases for the debut release), and to make only VQA vinifera wines aside from a Vidal Icewine. For sale at the winery now is Riesling, a Gewurztraminer-Riesling blend, Cabernet Franc Rose, Unoaked Chardonnay, Cabernet red blend and Cabernet Franc Icewine. Just now getting bottled is an oaked Chardonnay and plans call for a 2010 Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Noir down the road.

The philosophy of the estate is to focus on small batch wines at a great price. He’s keeping true to that with this first release. Not one wine for sale (except the Icewine) is more than $20. Even the oaked Chardonnays are priced in the low $20s.

“We want to wow people with our wines and we want to offer great value,” Puglisi said.

PondView's Lou Puglisi in the vineyard
PondView's Lou Puglisi in the vineyard

Another aspect of PondView wines is the higher than normal alcohol levels in most of his wines. Even the Cabernet Franc Rose, usually a lighter wine, contains 12.7% alcohol. Puglisi said the reason for the higher alcohols is from the longer hang-time in the vineyard, which concentrates the sugars producing more alcohol. He said that allows for flavour and ripeness in his wines without showing heat on the palate from the alcohol. And, he’s right. None of his wines are noticeably high in alcohol. They are balanced by ripe fruit and high acidity.

The namesake of the winery, PondView, is still a work in progress. The pond is situated in the middle of the vineyard and there isn’t a way for visitors to get there comfortably yet. Eventually, the winery wants to host events in their vineyard next to the pond.

Here are some favourite wines from a tasting at PondView (note: all wines available at the winery only):

PondView Chardonnay Unoaked
PondView Chardonnay Unoaked

PondView Riesling 2009 ($16, 4 stars) — As Puglisi said: “We can make interesting Rieslings on this side of the canal, too.” He’s referring, of course, to all the buzz about Bench Rieslings and the distinct minerality those wines impart. But Niagara-on-the-Lake can produce some very nice Rieslings as well. The nose on this wine is all about the citrus and green apple notes on the nose. In the mouth it’s a citrus-lime bomb with nice play between sweet and tart fruit in a modestly off-dry style that shows wonderful balance for a Riesling that’s finished with 12.5% alcohol.

PondView Cabernet Franc Rose 2009 ($15, 4 stars) — This rose is not made as a by-product of another red (as many roses are). It’s from a block of Cabernet Franc specifically set aside for the rose. The end result is a delicious off-dry wine loaded with ripe, bold strawberry-cherry notes. It’s a refreshing style of wine that’s perfect for summer weather or patio meals.

PondView Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 ($17, 3.5 stars) — Chardonnay will eventually play a huge role in the wine program at PondView. The barrel-fermented Chardonnays, which we tried straight from the barrel, are coming along nicely with creamy bold, tropical and vanilla flavours at this stage that will only get better as they are bottled and released later in August. The unoaked version shows notes of apple and citrus in a fresh style both on the nose and through the finish.

PondView Cabernet 2008 ($18, 3.5 stars, only a few cases remain) — This contains about two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc from what many consider to be a weak red vintage. But this shows plenty of ripe blackberry/cassis fruit to go with licorice and spice. A very pleasant red at a terrific price. Can’t wait to see what PondView can do in a great vintage.

PondView Cabernet Franc Icewine 2009 ($35 for 200 Ml, 4 stars) — A very fine red Icewine with fresh and fragrant raspberry, strawberry shortcake and black cherry aromas that follow to the palate. Firm acidity completes the package, cutting through the honey sweetness. A dessert all on its own.