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Tasting Burning Kiln wines with winemaker Lydia Tomek, plus a few tasty new releases from Niagara’s Fielding Estate

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By Rick VanSickle

If you haven’t been to Norfolk County to visit Burning Kiln, one the area’s pioneering and key wineries in the still emerging wine region, or any other of the wineries there, you are missing out on a unique experience.

Burning Kiln Winery rose out of the ashes of the Ontario tobacco industry that once ruled the local economy in Norfolk County. The winery was repurposed and architecturally reconfigured from an original tobacco pack barn to pay homage to that fact. It stands as a tribute to the resiliency and resolute determination of a region that is forging ahead to create new frontiers of farming.

NOTE: Several reviews for new wines from Fielding Estate are also in the this report

Situated on a former tobacco tract, the winery has been built to preserve the historic charm of its original wooden structure while allowing visitors to view much of the operation from behind giant, contemporary glass walls. Inside, a functional, modern working winery shares its secrets of the complete winemaking process — much of which includes drying grapes with repurposed tobacco kilns — while maintaining the warmth of the original wood structure.

The wines are all made by talented Brock CCOVI graduate Lydia Tomek, very top photo and below during a backyard tasting, formerly head winemaker at Herner Estate Winery in Niagara and who has had made many stops in her short career at some of Niagara’s key wineries.

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“It is an incredible feeling and honour to start my new wine adventure with Burning Kiln Winery,” she says. “Being able to intimately work with grapes grown on Burning Kiln’s rich soils and unique landscape, along with utilizing tobacco kilns in parts of the winemaking process, is an exciting opportunity not only for myself but also for the Ontario South Coast. I look forward to working with so many incredible people to help build the Ontario South Coast as one of Canada’s great wine regions.”

Tomek recently brought a selection of kiln-dried wines to my backyard to taste with colleague Michael Lowe and I on a sweltering summer afternoon. Three of the wines Tomec brought — a trio of the bigger kiln-dried wines — were not even bottled yet, but we got a glimpse of the style of wines you get when you apply dried grapes to the equation. There’s a smokiness to these wines, especially the Kiln Hanger (100% Cabernet Franc), and a richer concentration of fruit and spice.

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I was particularly impressed with the Petit Verdot, a delicious take on what can be a highly tannic variety that showed much more softness on the palate with deeper, riper fruit and spice notes. It was simply delicious at this stage even before it has been bottled.

We also tried Tomec’s Sparks 2017, a charmat-style sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir. It was bright and elegant with a vigorous mousse and a clean, fresh finish that hit the spot on day where the temperature spiked in the mid-40s.

Here’s a some other wines from Burning Kiln Wines In Niagara tasted:

Norfolk County wine

Burning Kiln Quitting Time Pinot Grigio 2017 ($20, 87 points) — Lovely peach, lime and citrus aromas on the nose. The palate shows ripe white peach, a touch of fleshy tropical fruit, a note of sweetness but nicely balanced on the finish.

Burning Kiln Sweet Leaf Kiln-Dried Riesling 2016 ($29, 89 points) — Tomec makes a couple of different Rieslings at the estate and they are polar opposites — one austere, taut and only subtly sweet and this one that’s quite sweet, extravagant and lush. The notes on the nose include a heady mix of quince, honey, pink grapefruit and super-concentrated stone fruits. It’s rich and textured on the palate with a range of fully ripened peach, apple, pear and smothered in wild honey and roasted almond flavours through a long, somewhat balanced finish.

Burning Kiln Horse & Boat Riesling 2016 ($20, 88 points) — More traditionally made Riesling with some partial wild fermentation and aromas of lime, lemon, grapefruit and green apple. It has a note of sweetness on the palate but feels dry from the generous and mouth-watering acidity. A leaner, cleaner, zestier style than the Sweet Leaf.

Burning Kiln Broken Needle Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 ($20, 89 points) — Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this lovely rosé has a nose of freshly crushed red berries and subtle citrus and herb notes. It’s refreshingly dry on the palate with the full range of raspberry, cherry and strawberry notes on a bright and vibrant finish.

Burning Kiln Prime Pinot Noir 2016 ($25, 88 points) — 85% of the Pinot Noir fruit for this wine is kiln dried. It has an interesting nose of bramble, smoky cherry, strawberry, herbs and spice notes. It’s made in a lighter style in the glass but shows concentration of flavours on the palate ranging from potent red berries to deeper, darker fruits with complementing spice and herbs. Quite delicious.

New wine releases from
Fielding Estate Winery

Fielding Estate Chardonnay Unoaked 2017 ($16, 88 points) — Fresh and juicy on the nose with notes of white peach, bright green apple and lemon. It shows crisp and lively orchard fruits on the palate all lifted by mouth-watering acidity on the finish. Great summer sipper.

Fielding Estate Pinot Grigio 2017 ($17, 89 points) — There is some skin contact with this Grigio, which shows a light pale salmon colour in the glass. It has pretty aromas of peach, canned pears, ripe melon and apricots. It pops on the palate with juicy orchard fruits, honeydew melon and bin apple notes that lead to a clean, crisp finish.

Fielding Estate Brut Sparkling NV ($37, 90 points) — Comprised of 63% Chardonnay and 37% Pinot Noir, this sparkler, made in the traditional method, shows a tight, persistent bead in the glass with a nose of bright apple, lemon, melba toast and brioche. It’s loaded with mouth-watering acidity that highlights the range of green apple and citrus notes with a creamy, toasty finish.

Fielding Estate Rock Pile Chardonnay 2016 ($37, fall release, 91 points) — This is a gorgeous and complex Chardonnay form winemaker Richie Roberts that will be worth the wait when released this fall. The nose is tight right now but promises a more open knit nose of poached pear, vanilla cream, citrus accents and a range of elegant spice notes. It’s creamy and rich on the palate with flavours of pear, apple and swirling oak spices to go with a clean, freshening finish that’s already nicely balanced. Will likely improve in the bottle and cellar, even with the release in the fall.


Fielding Estate Viognier 2017 ($26, 90 points) — A rich and pure nose of apricot, peaches, ginger, tropical fruits and spice. It’s made in a dry, crisp style on the palate with lovely texture to go with flavours of succulent and exotic apricot, melon, pineapple with balancing citrus notes and spicy ginger accents on the finish.

Fielding Estate Rock Pile Red 2016 ($22, 89 points) — This is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a forward and ripe nose of cherries, raspberries, cassis and light spice notes. It’s quite delicious on the palate without being too complicated with straight ahead red fruits, subtle currant notes and spice with a soft, juicy finish.

Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2016 ($25, 91 points) — The Cabernet Franc for this delicious wine comes the estate’s Tufford Road Vineyard in the Lincoln Lakeshore sup-appellation. What a beauty! Notes of savoury red fruits, raspberry bramble, subtle herbs, cassis and elegant spices on the nose. It’s textbook Niagara Franc on the palate with just the right mix of ripe and savoury notes to go with herbs, succulent red fruits, integrated tannins and good structure and balance through the finish.

Fielding Estate Cabernet Syrah 2016 ($30, 90 points) — The expressive nose shows smoky cherries and black currants with cracked black peppercorns and savoury spice notes. It’s quite juicy on the palate with red and dark fruits, smoke, pepper, licorice and spice with fairly good balance and depth on the finish.