Niagara Wine Reviews

Magestic new Niagara winery making stylish wines

The partially-finished Colaneri winery.

Andrzej Lipinski, winemaker at Colaneri from Rick VanSickle on Vimeo.

What: Colaneri Estate Winery
Where: 348 Concession 6 Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake
Hours: The winery is under construction but a well stocked and decorated tasting room is available for shopping and tasting from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
Winemaker: Andrzej Lipinski
Proprietors: The Colaneri family
Specialties: Italian-inspired, appassimento-style wines, form the foundation for the Colaneri portfolio. Most of the wines will be made with some drying of the grapes starting with 2009 wines.
Must try: Lipinski uses modified tobacco kilns to dry the grapes before crushing. The resulting wines are complex, concentrated, textured and certainly unique. Both the Pinot Grigio and Gewurztraminer 2009 are exciting wines that are a must to try. The current reds from 2008 are made traditionally but will undergo appassimento starting in 2009.
Website: Colaneri


The partially-finished Colaneri winery.
The partially-finished Colaneri winery.

It rises out of the vineyards like some sort of modern-day Roman Colosseum — a grand and gently curved structure with arches and stucco that will be, from anyone’s best guess, Niagara’s largest single winery when all is said and done.

It is a labour of love, a dream, for the Colaneri family, which has deep Italian roots and a long history of growing grapes in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The winery idea came about after years of grape surpluses forced the family to come up with another plan. The large extended family sat down and decided their vineyards were such a gorgeous backdrop for a winery and they didn’t want to give that up.

Betty Colaneri on one of the winery decks.
Betty Colaneri on one of the winery decks.

The hybrids were pulled out and vinifera planted in their place. Then the idea for a spectacular winery, designed by Nick Colaneri, was born. The concept was to construct a huge “C” shaped structure, to represent the C in Colaneri, and to base the design on their Italian roots.

Walking through the partially constructed winery with Betty Colaneri there is a sense of grandeur at every turn. It will have four floors (complete with an elevator) with spectacular panoramic views of the estate vineyard from huge floor-to-ceiling windows. A special events room will hold up to 250 guests.

The winery is state of the art, but it is in the barrel cellar where the true beauty of this winery is seen. It’s a huge, two-pronged cavern that curves gently under the main structure. The two sides will be separated by Roman-style columns. It is here that grand tastings and special event dinners will be held.

The main entertaining room at Colaneri
The main entertaining room at Colaneri

At the centre of the operation, of course, are the wines. Andrzej Lipinski was hired to build a portfolio of wines that would represent the Italian tradition of the family using the best of what Niagara offers in terms of grape varieties.

“We want to make full-bodied wines — both red and white,” explained Lipinski. All our wines are pretty much barrel fermented and barrel aged.”

Most wines beginning with 2009 will be made in the appassimento style. The process of drying grapes, in this case in modified tobacco kilns for varying amounts of time, is used in Amarone (Italian) wines and concentrates flavours and gives the wines more body, complexity and concentration.

Winemaker Lipinski trying the Chardonnay.
Winemaker Andrzej Lipinski trying the Chardonnay.

Lipinski’s wines will have higher alcohol content, something a lot of other wineries are shying away from.

“People want full-bodied wines but they don’t want the alcohol,” he says. “I want to be different, not like everyone else. People want choice.”

You get a sense of where Lipinski is going with his wines when tasting through the 2009 whites. But the appassimento reds for sale now are from the 2008 vintage, not made with dried grapes. The 2009s in barrel, made appassimento, are vastly different with a richer, more complex profile.

Another feature of the winery is the thematic labels designed by Maximilian Kaiser with Leonardo da Vinci inspired drawings and Italian names that were all based on impressions from each family member. The stories behind each label and the names are detailed on the website.

Grapes drying in the kiln.
Grapes drying in the kiln.

Colaneri started production from 28 acres of vines with 3,000 cases, which will grow to 10,000 cases in 2009 as more vines come into maturity. The winery is expected to be completely finished in a year or so.

Here are some highlights from a full portfolio tasting with Lipinski (note, all wines are available at the winery).

Colaneri Riesling Reserve “Stellucha” 2009 ($29, 4.5 stars) — A barrel-fermented (in old oak), barrel aged, Alsatian styled Riesling with grapes picked on Jan. 21 with 14.7% alcohol. I know I’ve lost a few of you already, but give it a try, it’s remarkable. Quite stylish and unique with a nose sweet lime-citrus, blood orange, honey and a touch of vanilla and spice. It’s a full-bodied Riesling on the palate with rich, ripe flavours, honey sweetness and underlying oak and spice. Age for 20 years or more.

Colaneri Stellucha
Colaneri Stellucha

Colaneri Fume Blanc 2009 ($30, released soon, 4 stars) — Only 100 cases were made of this wine made from 45% dried grapes and barrel fermented and aged in oak for seven months. It’s Sauvignon Blanc on steroids with apple, peach, pear and vanilla with touches of grass and herbs on the mid-palate. A fabulously rich wine.

Colaneri Pinot Grigio “Cavallone” 2009 ($25, 4.5 stars) — Made from 20% dried grapes, barrel fermented and aged for seven months and picked in late October. This is one amazing Pinot Grigio. Beautiful copper colour with expressive peach, melon, tangerine and pear fruits on the nose. It shows elegance and richness on the palate with apple, spice and stone fruits all touched by vanilla and honey. Wow.

Colaneri Gewurztraminer “Mistera” 2009 ($25, 4 stars) — Made from 50% dried grapes, barrel fermented and aged for seven months. The nose is all about rose petals, grapefruit and lychee to go with exotic spices and wild honey. It’s only slightly off dry on the palate with citrus, spice and lychee.

Colaneri Cabernet Franc “Unita” 2008 ($25, 4 stars) — Cassis, blackberry and bramble fruit on the nose with a touch of herbs, bell pepper and cedar. It comes together on the palate with spicy cherry-raspberry fruits.

Colaneri Syrah “Visione” 2008 ($30, 4 stars) — Not a spectacular year for Syrah, but this is very fine with gamey fruits, white pepper a hint of boysenberry and black cherry all smothered in elegant oak tones. Good acidity on the palate to go with red fruits, pepper and earth.