By Lindsay Hatch
Social distancing is the ‘new way of life’ right now, just like the 30s are the new 20s and orange is the new pink. Even though we are all staying home for the time being, I am trying to do my part to get you as close to what’s happening in our local Niagara wineries right now.
I recently had the opportunity (via IG Live) to sit down and talk with 16 Mile Cellar’s head winemaker, Morgan Juniper. A winemaker I currently have my eyes on, and a woman who is going to bring some game changing wines to the Niagara wine region. A winemaker whose methodology aligns more with the traditions I have experienced deep in the roots of Europe vs. what I tend to come across in Niagara — a more modern winemaking style that, for the most part, seems more focused on textbook winemaking and science than intuition.
Juniper was first drawn to the idea of winemaking because it aligned with her desire to work and travel. She graduated from the winemaking program at Niagara College in early 2013 and from there spent three years working in Australia, a stint in Germany and one year in Alsace, France before coming back and settling into the Niagara region.
“Even when I was working abroad I always had a pretty strong focus on working for small family run wineries,” says Juniper. “At the very beginning I was particularly interested in a focus on organic and biodynamic agriculture in winemaking.”
Discussing her winemaking mentality and all of the work involved from the vineyard to the bottle and everything in between, she says: “I’m kind of a one-woman-kind-of-show in terms of the cellar,” but tips her hat to the great vineyard manager Bill Baranick, one of the neighbours, who lives down the road and who’s been managing the vineyard for quite some time.
16 Mile Cellar is a small estate property that produces about 20 tonnes of fruit — a block of Pinot Noir and three blocks of Chardonnay, all being farmed organically since 2014. Juniper works closely with Baranick through the ripening season to make sure the fruit is at top quality, but also having the ability to understand what qualities they are looking to achieve and how to achieve it in the vineyard are very important.
Juniper jokes about how she is not a “scientific winemaker” — she doesn’t have a recipe of yeasts and additives. ”I’m not making whatever type of wine I want from whatever type of fruit I get,” she says.
Even when it comes to deciding the perfect moment to pick, Juniper relies on her senses by going right into the vineyard and biting into an entire cluster of fruit — stems and all — to catch the vineyard at the perfect phenolic ripeness. It’s an ability and understanding of hers that she was able to learn and develop while working in Europe.
In the cellar, her winemaking practices could be considered different from most. “I’m doing a lot of things that not a lot of people do … which is nothing,” she says with a laugh. However, choosing to make wines in this way takes skill and experience and the beautiful wines that she is making shows her ability to work with her instincts and integrate the knowledge she has gained from every past vintage she’s worked. After vinification, minor, but mostly zero, filtration is the standard for all 16 Mile wines, leaving them full of the texture and life developed during ferment and not stripping them of anything.
16 Mile wines can be ordered here for you to enjoy and try from the comfort of your own home!
The “new” release, which you can find online, is the 2016 Rebel Chardonnay at $22.95, which is quite beautiful. It’s fruit forward on the nose, showcasing lots of juicy yellow citrus fruits with the most subtle impression of French oak. The palate is zesty and playful with a great crunchy acidity and a lingering texture that can be enjoyed long after swallowing.
My favourite is the 2017 Exonerated Pinot Noir at $19.95. It’s a juicy, bright and complex red that is so enjoyable and easy to drink it will be gone before you notice! A wine made from two parts — 90% Pinot Noir 2017 and 10% Gamay 2018. On the lighter end of the spectrum for a red wine, the tannins are soft and silky and the acidity is very well balanced by the punchy red fruits and fresh peppery quality that comes from the whole cluster fermentation of the Pinot Noir.
They are wines to be gulped down and enjoyed by a room of people, but when poured for a room full of sommeliers and winemakers, spark an intense conversation and have us talking till our throats are dry.
About Lindsay Hatch
Lindsay Hatch is a self-proclaimed wine groupie. She has worked in many areas of the wine industry including sales and writing but finds her passion in production. Lindsay has worked many harvests, making wine across the globe from Niagara to Yarra Valley, Australia and Alsace, France. Lindsay is on a perpetual mission to quench her thirst for the knowledge of wine. She is best known for her fun, funky and informative Niagara wine column in The Sound STC newspaper based in St. Catharines and her Instagram page @TheJustRipe. There you will catch her writing about wine in a way that encourages you to leave all your snobbery at the door. Dive headfirst into Niagara wine country with Lindsay as she explores the region’s wines, winemakers and everything in between.