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Niagara winery snapshot: Raising the bar at Two Sisters winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake

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By Monica Kosior

During the winter months, grape vines are dormant in Niagara, but winemakers and cellar hands certainly are not. This past month I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes with Two Sisters’ ( head winemaker Adam Pearce, pictured above sample Cabernet Franc from barrel.

The winemaker’s rap sheet:

Adam was introduced to the wine world while on a yearlong trip to Australia. He was offered the chance to work on a vineyard there and it opened his eyes to a potential career path. It wasn’t a simple decision but once he returned home to Thunder Bay he decided to explore his options. One was to become a scuba diver and the other a winemaker. We are very glad he chose the latter.

Adam has worked as an assistant winemaker at Fielding Estate Winery, then as head winemaker at Pentâge Winery in British Columbia before joining the team at Two Sisters.

The Two Sisters vineyards are all located within the Niagara River sub-appellation in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Totalling 60 acres, the estate red varieties, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, are all grown on this site. Knowing their own positives of their land, the entire red wine portfolio is produced solely off the estate Niagara River vineyard. While all of the white grapes are sourced primarily from the Niagara Escarpment appellation and various sub appellations within the Niagara Escarpment.

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What happens in the cellar
during the winter months?

The grapes have been harvested, the fermentations are completed and the storage selections have been made.

Now the wines spend quality time with Adam and assistant winemaker Trevor Ingham, above photo. Both tackle the maintenance and monitor the progress of the portfolio. With daily barrel testing and sampling, they are able to make final decisions for the final products.

The estate reds are initially fermented in their Mythos Closed Fermenter, one of the most advanced tank styles Niagara. This fermenter will trap the CO2 and aromas released at the top of the tank and force it back into the wine while breaking the cap without introducing oxygen.

At the touch of a button the pump overs can be scheduled up to 12 times a day.

Over 600 French oak barrels (Italian coopered) are used in their oak program. This allows the team to hand pick specific barrels for their top blend, the “Eleventh Post,” or for their single variety reds.

Once the wine has completed aging, they prepare for fining and filtering.

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Any winemaker can make a great wine in great conditions, but it is a true mark of a winemaker to continue to produce high quality products in a challenging vintage. This is exactly what Adam and his team are achieving.

The future of Two Sisters:

The wine program includes a portfolio expansion, starting with a new rosé (blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon), pictured in the below photo.

This will be introduced early this spring, not as an afterthought in the portfolio but purposely created from estate grapes. This rosé will be a transition piece between the whites and the reds, and can be considered a very serious wine.

Currently in the works is a new sparkling wine, a Blanc de Noir made of 100% Cabernet Franc — an exciting addition to the Niagara market. Still in the base-wine stage, this bubbly-to-be is already showing unique and promising characteristics.

As for the vineyard, discussions of additions and eliminations are continuing.

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Adam explains that “a rising tide raises all boats” and they are working toward the common goal of everyone in Niagara: To educate and introduce wine lovers to the wines in their backyards, and to strengthen the region as a whole. They are producing the best wines that their site can make and they are staying true to their mesoclimate of the Niagara River.

Why should you visit and try Two Sisters?

Because they are raising the bar, starting first and foremost in the vineyard all the way to the tasting bar at the beautiful winery. Don’t let the size of the building scare you, because after you walk in “it feels like you are thousands of miles away.” The experience is exceptional.

The more I learn about the people in the Niagara wine world, the more I realize that sometimes it’s not their initial career. Once you get a taste, literally, of the region you fall in love and find it very hard to leave. And why would you want to?

NOTE: Special thanks to Vladimir Skok (Marketing manager, Two Sisters Vineyard) for co-ordinating the production site visit, and to both Adam and Trevor for taking the time out of their schedules to speak with me.