Inside the winery at Vineland Estate on a bright spring day, I am tasting samples of wine with two brilliant winemakers and one legendary pioneer, the man who planted, nurtured and eventually sold the famed Rosomel Vineyard.
Brian Schmidt, winemaker at Vineland Estate, Andrzej Lipinski, winemaker at Colaneri and Roman Prydatkewycz, now vineyard viticulturist at Vineland and former owner of the Rosomel Vineyard, have come together on this day to taste and nosh the afternoon away.
Winemakers, of course, do this sort of thing all the time, constantly tasting from tank and barrel, comparing notes and seeking opinions from each other.
Schmidt takes us through tank samples of his famed St. Urban vineyard 2010 Riesling components. The “Field F” grapes were picked first and show the racy acidity and citric fruits you’d expect.
The “Field A”, right-hand side of the vineyard, was picked a couple of weeks later and brings stone fruits, tropical fruits and grapefruit notes to the blend while retaining a moderate amount fresh acidity.
The final sample is from “Field A”, picked four-six weeks after the first Riesling grapes were harvested. This sample shows more mango/tropical fruits and minerality, with just a touch of residual sugar.
Schmidt will bring these components together as the final blend for the 2010 bottling of his famed single vineyard Riesling. From what we tasted, it should be a great year for Riesling at Vineland Estates — plenty of early picked fruit and acidity blended into those ripe, juicy flavours from a hot vintage.
We also got a taste of Schmidt’s 2010 regular cuvee unoaked Chardonnay ($12.75), which he’s just filtered. It’s quite fragrant with tropical fruits and shows good acid on the palate (a similar strategy was used for the Chard, pick some fruit early to retain acidity). Even from the tank this wine has a pleasant, clean finish.
Two wines to watch for down the road include the Vineland Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 (still in barrel and will be aged in oak for another year), a stunning red already with cassis, raspberry and developing sweet spices. Also keep in mind Schmidt’s regular cuvee Cabernet Franc (a steal at $12.75) 2010. It’s a pure, ripe fruit bomb that shows brilliantly the fruit of the hot vintage.
Schmidt invites us to lunch at the Restaurant at Vineland Estate Winery. Executive Chef Jan Willem Stulp presides over a superb menu at the renovated 1845 farmhouse with stunning views of rolling vineyards and Lake Ontario and Toronto in the distance.
We start with the Vineland Estates 2008 Riesling Methode Cuve Close, a wonderful creamy sparkling wine with citrus, toast and crisp, clean notes on the finish. It’s a perfect beginning to lunch.
Our first course, chosen by Schmidt, is a delicious seafood bouillabaisse with grilled shrimp, mussels and white fish served beautifully with Vineland Estates Semi-Dry Riesling 2009, just released at the winery. The match is perfect with the juicy citrus and peach flavours, with just a touch of sweetness, pairing so well with the fish and shrimp.
Next up was a pairing and surprise I will remember until the end of time:
A lamb and beef dish with Vineland Estate Rosomel Vineyard Meritage 1998 in magnum, one of the last 13 bottles from Schmidt’s personal stash.
First a little history about Rosomel Vineyard, considering one of our guests at lunch was Roman Prydatkewycz, the man who planted that vineyard in 1976 and sold it to Hidden Bench in 2002.
Rosomel is situated about 6 km east of Hidden Bench at the base of the Niagara Escarpment on the Beamsville Bench. It consists of 26 acres, and has produced award-winning wines consistently over the years.
Hidden Bench has carried on stewardship of this great vineyard and employs many of the viticulture techniques that help differentiate and distinguish this great site.
This site now produces the fruit for Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche and La Brunante (the top red) as well as the Vieille Vignes Chardonnay and the Roman’s Block Riesling, named in honour of and in homage to the founder of this benchmark vineyard.
Prydatkewycz is now the vineyard viticulturist at Vineland Estates Winery.
Born in the Ukraine, Prydatkewycz’s family immigrated to Brazil when he was a young boy. As a teenager his family moved to Hamilton. After many years of working in the food processing industry, a friend suggested he invest in some land on the Niagara Escarpment. After careful thought, he did just that and began his second career as a winegrower. Prydatkewycz and wife Sophie owned and operated their 26 acre vineyard on the Beamsville Bench, a preferred site for growing grapes, nestled against the Niagara Escarpment, known as Rosomel Vineyard.
So here we are, Schmidt, Lipinski and the man who grew the grapes for so many wonderful and memorable Niagara wines, chowing down with a couple of gorgeous hunks of meat, cooked to perfection and matched to one of Niagara’s greatest wines from one of the best vineyards and made in one of Niagara’s best vintages — 1998.
This was pure heaven.
The 1998 Vineland Estates Rosomel Vineyard Meritage, a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot, is simply a blockbuster. Cherry-kirsch, cassis, spice, cloves and other gorgeous aromatics. In the mouth, I’m not sure wine gets any better. A pure and balanced red, with both power and grace, showing perfectly integrated fruit and just now coming into its peak of perfection.
It was hard to stop eating and drinking this magical combination. And to be doing that in the presence of Prydatkewycz, and listening to him talk about his legendary vineyard where the fruit for this wine was grown, was just a dream come true.
We wrapped up our day with a nice pistachio cake with white chocolate grenache. We said no to a sweet wine to finish, and instead savoured what was left of the magnum of Rosomel Vineyard Meritage.