Niagara Wine Reviews

Fred De Moura makes Niagara wines his way

One car after another we rumble into the sloping, unplowed driveway of Fred De Moura’s Winery Way on a snow-packed winter’s day.

Fred De Moura at his Winery Way tasting room.

It’s a nondescript, shed-like structure on Niagara Stone Road, right across the road from the Niagara District Airport, and not far from the more spectacular and sleek Southbrook Winery.

There is no telling how we’re going to get out of the De Moura winery driveway, with all the deep, slippery snow covering the driveway, but we’re on a mission to taste some new wines and De Moura is waiting inside. Digging us out will come later.

He greets our group warmly and, despite the tight fit in the small tasting room, he has set up several glasses to taste the four wines he has made at his makeshift winery.

De Moura is a Torontonian and spends his week there working for the federal government and his weekends at the winery, doing pretty much everything it takes to grow grapes and make VQA wines.

Fred De Moura explaining his Old World style Niagara wines.

It’s an odd route De Moura has taken. Wine appreciation classes, and several winemaking and viticulture classes at Niagara College and Brock University. Oh, did I mention he’s 70 years old?

Yes, you meet the most curious people while touring in wine country.

De Moura immigrated to Canada from the wine-soaked Portuguese island of Madeira when he was a teenager. It has been his dream ever since to own a vineyard of his own.

He bought his 10-acre parcel of land in 2002, started taking viticulture courses and planted grapes — Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to start. He’s also recently planted Vidal, but not for icewine, he says. It’s for a “crazy blended table wine — because I don’t know enough about wine.” He laughs at his joke, and we laugh with him.

De Moura Chardonnay.

His motto for the winery is displayed proudly on every bottle: “Winery Way” because, just like Frank Sinatra, “we did it our way. We do everything our way.”

And he and his wife literally do everything themselves, their way. Planting, pruning, picking, crushing, bottling, labeling, packaging, selling and marketing. “And we even clean the floors ourselves.”

The only help De Moura gets is from Terence van Rooyen, the winemaker and professor at Niagara College who is consulting on the wines.

He admits to loving the Old World style of wines from Madeira, Portugal, Bordeaux and Spain and it shows in the wines he’s crafting at Winery Way. There is nothing subtle in the judicious use of oak, aggressive tannins and concentration of fruit in his first wines. The question remains, however — can De Moura bring everything into harmony?

The De Moura Melange red blend.

He’s using 100% new French and American oak, aged 14 months or more, some of them with a touch of chestnut. He kept his yields in the hot 2007 vintage to ¾ of a tonne per acre and ½ a tonne per acre in both 2008-2009.

“I try to make the best wines I possibly can,” he says.

Tasting through his wines you can see the potential. The 2007 De Moura Winery Way Liew Chardonnay ($20, nearly sold out), with 13.5% alcohol, eight months in new French oak and a further six months in chestnut, is a little unbalanced with oak dominating both nose and palate. There is underlying rich fruits but masked in the overpowering spice and oak.

I liked the 2008 version of the Liew Chardonnay ($20) better, despite 14 months in American oak (and just a touch of chestnut). It’s a buttery, creamy style that’s loaded with tropical fruit, spice and vanilla. I am curious to see how this wine ages and comes more into balance. It definitely has great potential.

Fred De Moura brings out the fancy glasses for his top wines.

His other two wines available — the 2007 De Moura Winery Way Melange de Frederick ($25) and 2007 De Moura Winery Way Dref Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) — are huge wines, perhaps overdone a bit with all that brand new oak (the Cabernet alone was in new oak for 30 months).

The Melange, which he serves in his best gold leaf glasses, is a blend of Shiraz, Merlot and just 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. De Moura doesn’t want to give away any trade secrets about the exact percentages of the other two varietals, but judging by the gobs of freshly ground black pepper and spice, it’s a safe bet that there’s quite a bit of Shiraz in it. It’s an interesting, juicy wine with plenty of aggressive tannins and oak saturation. Another wine that will take time to settle down.

The Dref Cab Sauv is a tannic monster. Not sure if the tannins will ever be tamed, but it will take years of cellaring to find out.

In all, an interesting new winery has been born in Niagara, and another character who helps shape the diverse and evolving Niagara region has arrived. De Moura is worth checking out and watching as his vineyards mature and as he tinkers in the cellar with all that wood. Watch this fall for a 100% Merlot and 100% Shiraz to hit the shelves.