It’s been a long time coming, but the extended Nickel family is about to realize a dream when it opens its winery doors on May 7.
The idea for Hinterbrook, wedged nicely between Strewn Winery and Konzelmann Estate Winery along Lakeshore Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake, was born in 2002 when Phil Nickel all set to open a winery and sell wines made from grapes from his 32-acre farm.
He hired a winemaker and others to set the wheels in motion but when it came time to launch, Nickel said: “I didn’t feel I had enough people around me. So, we kiboshed the idea.” It was a decision made at the 11th hour.
As fate would have it, another opportunity came up for Nickel, an investment in Maple Craft Doors Ltd., a St. Catharines company that produces kitchen cabinet doors and wood items, and the dream for a winery was put on ice for a while.
Flash forward to a family meeting in 2009 while sitting around the kitchen table, and the Nickel clan, including his wife Charlotte, son, Andrew, who is studying to be a winemaker, and daughter, Jaclyn McCreath and her husband, Allen, from the marketing side of the business, put the winery back on the front burner with the right people in the right jobs and took a different approach to the business.
The family has been growing and selling grapes to Peller since 1998. It was once a tender fruit farm, operated by his parent Clarence and Helen Nickel. The property is planted to merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir and uses sustainable (but not exclusively organic) farming practises with minimal use of pesticides.
The family hired the Vines to Vintages team, led by well-known winemaker Natalie Spytkowsky (Rosewood Estate), to make the wines at the brand new winery equipped with the latest technology including geothermal heating and cooling, rainwater collection for the winemaking process and water use and implementation of an effective sanitation program without the use of chemicals. The most apparent visual representation of Hinterbrook’s commitment to the environment is the 1,000 square foot solar panel which tracks the position of the sun each day and generates enough power throughout the year to supply the winery’s electricity demand.
The winery plans to make between 3,000-3,500 cases in the first stage but has capacity to produce 12,000 cases.
Allen McCreath, marketing director of Hinterbrook, says the winery is family run but “not low brow. We want some elegance in what we do.”
The initial release of wines includes a riesling, sauvignon blanc, franc blanc (a white cabernet franc) and rose from the 2010 vintage and two icewines, a vidal and a cabernet franc, from the 2009 vintage.
The retail and tasting room was being worked on during my visit, but the Nickel family says it will be ready for the grand opening on May 7. The tasting room will feature a bamboo bar and trim and will be open seven days a week from May to Sept.
Consumers will have to settle for 2010 white wines and icewine for the opening on May 7, with pinot noir, chardonnay (from purchased grower grapes), and merlot released in the fall and the big reds, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc released next winter. Hinterbrook is also making a proprietary Bordeaux style blend that won’t be released until “Natalie says we can.”
I was impressed with the white wine program. There’s definitely a Spytkowsky feel to the riesling (a round, fruity Mosel feel) and she has done well to capture the tropical (Nickel didn’t want the overt grassy notes) profile of the sauvignon blanc.
The red program is coming along. We tried the 2010 pinot noir and cabernet franc in barrel (all new French oak barrels, of course, as the winery grows) and the flavours were gorgeous in both wines.
Here’s what’s available on May 7 or on the website now at Hinterbrook.
Hinterbrook Franc Blanc 2010 ($22, 88 points) —This wine messes with your head. It’s 100% cabernet franc made with a light pressing, no skin contact and cold stabilized. It was treated like a white wine through the entire process and served chilled. You’re looking for red fruits on the nose but there aren’t any. It has a pale colour, but essentially looks like a white wine. The nose is all about tropical, melon, peach fruits with a nice floral note. It’s full and round on the palate with wonderful exotic tropical fruit flavours. You’ve got to try it! Only 50 cases were made.
Hinterbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($21, 89 points) — Nickel isn’t a big fan of the New Zealand style of sauvignon blanc so he asked Spytkowsky if she could develop a profile more suited to his palate. The result is this grapefruit-tropical fruit laden white with only subtle lean and grassy notes. It’s a rich, opulent style on the palate with broad flavours and a fresh citrus blast on the finish. “We can produce this style year after year,” says Nickel.
Hinterbrook Riesling 2010 ($18, 91 points) — Spytkowsky makes a lovely sussreserve style of riesling over at Rosewood Estate in Beamsville. This is in that style, but not entirely sussreserve. The rich fruits are all about tropical, mango, peach and grapefruit. On the palate, the peach, grapefruit and tropical fruits are kissed by honey in an slightly off-dry style. Very nice juice.
Hinterbrook Rose 2010 ($16, 86 points) — A lovely, quaffable rose with strawberry-raspberry fruits on the nose and through the palate. Finished with a touch of residual sugar. Just add the porch, and sip away.
Hinterbrook Cabernet Franc Icewine 2009 ($48 for 375 ml, 91 points) — A wonderful cab franc icewine with rich, highly extracted raspberry and strawberry fruits with a touch of bramble on the nose. The red fruits are fleshy on the palate and joined by rich honey notes and length on the finish.
Note: Hinterbrook is located at 1181 Lakeshore Rd. For more information on the winery, call them at 905-646-5133.