By Rick VanSickle
It was a snow-packed winter’s day in Niagara when our crew of wine tasters braved the steep incline down the unplowed driveway of wine country’s newest winery in February of 2011.
Also in this report: Cattail Creek closing doors to retail/winery side Sept. 9, highlights of Vintages release Saturday, new reviews for Flat Rock and Chateau des Charmes wines.
The simple sign outside the small tasting and retail room read: De Moura Winery Way. A curious name that had our interests piqued.
We were quickly greeted by the friendly and accommodating Fred De Moura (above) who, over the course of an hour or so, regaled us with the incredible story of how he came to be in Niagara. After the stories and tours of the tiny winery, he then poured from his eclectic collection of wines.
I only recently found out that Fred De Moura passed away over a year ago. I only know that because his winery and vineyard showed up for sale on Colliers International ($1.7 million for 10 acres and winery building). I have not yet found an obituary for him.
De Moura was a Torontonian who spent most his time there working for the federal government. He spent his weekends driving to his Niagara winery, doing pretty much everything it took to grow grapes and make VQA wines.
It was an odd route for him to get to where he wanted to be. Wine appreciation classes, and several winemaking and viticulture classes at Niagara College and Brock University. Oh, did I mention he was 70 years old, and that was in 2011?
De Moura immigrated to Canada from the wine-soaked Portuguese island of Madeira when he was a teenager. It was his dream 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, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to start.
Inside the tasting room, it was cramped but pleasant enough. It was in the chaos of the winery, which was part of the main building, that you got a sense of what De Moura wanted from his wines — longevity through judicious use of oak (and many kinds of wood) barrels.
We tasted several of De Moura’s wines at the time; some were downright over wooded and just not approachable, but a Chardonnay he made, the 2008 version of the Liew Chardonnay ($20) had some rustic charm, despite 14 months in American oak (and just a touch of chestnut). It was a buttery, creamy style that was loaded with tropical fruit, grilled pineapple, spice and butterscotch/vanilla.
I had forgotten that I purchased a bottle to put deep in the cellar to taste at a later date to see if all that oak/chestnut would ever integrate. I dug out the bottle from the cellar after learning of De Moura’s death and found it to be a fairly decent bottle of wine. Yes, it was still oaky, but the fruit held up to all that oak and it still had acidity to balance things out somewhat. My wife and I enjoyed the bottle and wondered why we never got back to the winery.
With De Moura gone and his dream with him, the name will sadly soon be forgotten in Niagara.
His motto for the winery was displayed proudly on every bottle: “Winery Way” because, just like Frank Sinatra, “we did it our way. We do everything our way,” De Moura said at the time.
You can never take that from him.
Cattail Creek Estate Winery closing
its doors, blowout prices for wines
And another Niagara-on-the-Lake winery is shutting down.
Cattail Creek winery manager Roselyn Dyck confirmed to Wines In Niagara that “yes, the rumours are true. After 12 great years, the family has decided to close Cattail Creek Estate Winery on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.”
In the meantime, all inventory from the estate is on sale at 40% off regular prices, both online and in store.
Dyck said her parents Ken and Renate Dyck decided that they wanted to retire and spend “more time with their grandkids and enjoying life after farming for 47 years.”
The estate will continue to grow grapes for other VQA wineries in Niagara and there are plans to expand vineyard operations.
As for Roselyn, she is going to focus on growing her home-based massage business.
“It was definitely a difficult decision to make but we are really excited to embark on this next stage of our lives.”
The history of Cattail Creek goes back to 1956 when Opa Epp had saved up enough money to follow his dream and purchase a small farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake. A true farmer at heart, he saw the potential for grape vines in Niagara on the lake and planted his small, 10-acre farm with grape vines. Every day he worked his farm selling the grapes to the local grocery store. Over time, he was able to plant even more grapes and sold them to the local winery.
His daughter, Renate, loved playing in the vineyards and quickly fell in love with farming. So it was just natural that after she married Ken Dyck they purchased their first farm in 1971. Planted entirely with peaches, they quickly replaced the trees with grape vines following Epp’s footsteps and selling the grapes to the small local wine industry starting to emerge in the Niagara Region.
In 1976, they became one of the first farmers to plant Riesling grape vines, and in 2006, the family dream became a reality with the creation of Cattail Creek Estate Winery.
Niagara wines being released
at Vintages Saturday
A couple of suggestions from the Niagara wines being released at Vintages stores this Saturday.
Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($30, 92 points) — This was on the Wines In Niagara Top 10 White Wines of 2017 list. It is a gorgeous Chardonnay that now has a bit more time in the bottle. With an intense nose, this is top tier Chardonnay from the Short Hills Bench. Look for spiced apples, mineral notes, creamy pear and just a touch of citrus on the edges. Gorgeous mouth-feel with freshening acidity highlights a range of orchard fruits, toasted barrel spice and swirling minerality. It’s balanced and poised now but can cellar 2+ years.
Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé 2017 ($18, 88 points) — A more robust blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gamay and Cabernet Franc with a nose of rich red berries and ripe cherry/anise notes. It’s bolder on the palate with succulent red fruits and decent acidity to keep it fresh through the finish.
Other Niagara wines released but not reviewed:
• Konzelmann Vidal Icewine 2015 ($45 for 375 mL)
• Backyard Vineyards nosey Neighbour White 2016 ($15)
• Featherstone Four Feathers 2017 ($15)
• Nomad Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($17)
• Sue-Ann Staff Loved by Lu Riesling 2016 ($18)
• 13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2016 ($20)
• Creekside Cabernet Franc 2014 ($25)
• Nomad Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($24)
Good Kharma part of this
Flat Rock trio of wines
Flat Rock’s popular Good Kharma Chardonnay is being released at Vintages stores on Sept. 15 and not only is it a delicious, well-made wine but a portion of the sales go to the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB). The association is a network of 120-member food banks where their vision is a hunger-free Ontario. Donations to OAFB can be made directly at any LCBO story until Sept. 15.
Here’s a review of the Good Kharma plus two other new releases from the Twenty Mile Bench producer in Niagara.
Flat Rock Cellars Good Kharma Chardonnay 2016 ($17, Vintages Sept. 15, 89 points) — A ripe and generous Chardonnay with full-on apple, citrus, pear and nicely integrated spice notes. It shows the warmth of the vintage with robust flavours of tropical fruits, apples, pears, cream and citrus accents with light oak spice notes. A pretty nice drop for $17.
Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2017 ($25, Vintages Oct. 27, 90 points) — This top-drawer single-vineyard Riesling from Flat Rock rarely disappoints. The 2017 version shows a racy vein of lime, grapefruit and lemon pith on the nose with the high-toned chalky minerality of the vineyard. The zippy acidity carries a range of citrus, green apple and mineral notes that remain crisp and vibrant through the finish. Can cellar 3+ years.
Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2015 ($35, Vintages Oct. 13, 92 points) — An intense nose of brambly raspberry, black cherry, earth and an interesting display of spices. It’s rich with a bit of savouriness on the palate with a plethora of red fruits, emerging spices and earthy/meaty undertones. It has firm tannic structure to go with mouth-watering acidity through the finish. You will want to cellar this 3+ years to settle down all the moving parts.
Good Gew from Chateau des Charmes
Chateau des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2016 ($19, 91 points) — Chateau des Charmes now grows all its Gewürztraminer in the estate’s St. David’s Bench Vineyard because they like the “fresh minerality from the limestone-laden artesian springs that run off the Niagara Escarpment. To fully allow that flavour to shine, we took a light hand in the cellar with all stainless vinification.” It’s an aromatic wine with notes of pear, grapefruit, ginger, lychee and baked brown sugar. It’s quite rich and unctuous on the palate and shows a range of exotic fruits, layered spices, lovely texture and balancing acidity. Very nice.