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Southbrook delivers organic wines with a smile, plus our picks at Vintages stores

By Rick VanSickle

When you order wine online from Southbrook Organic Vineyards don’t be surprised if the winery owner shows up in person to deliver the goods.

Note: Also in this report, we have a trio of Niagara wines we can recommend from the Saturday Vintages release including Featherstone rosé and Chardonnays from both Henry of Pelham and Chateau des Charmes.

Niagara wine
Getting the full ‘Purple Glove’ treatment from Southbrook owner Bill Redelmeier.

Bill Redelmeier has been dropping off boxes of wine from Niagara to Toronto and beyond non-stop since the beginning of the pandemic. And when he can’t do it, his son Andrew chips in to provide the “Purple Glove” service. For the Redelmeiers, it’s just part of the job to keep the wine flowing and provide a nice personal touch for their customers.

I received the Purple Glove treatment myself during #OpenLocalWine day recently when Bill Redelmeier showed up to my house in Niagara to drop off some his Triomphe organic wines. We shared a glass of local wine — socially distanced, of course — on the front lawn and chatted for a good hour or so about the pandemic, organic winemaking and the state of the Ontario wine industry. If you know Redelmeier, you know full well he’s passionate about organic and biodynamic farming and isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

Do yourself a favour and subscribe to the Southbrook newsletter penned by Redelmeier. Each issue is sent to your in-box weekly and the outspoken winery owner tackles hot-button issues such as organic farming, challenges of growing grapes in a cool climate, sustainable farming practices, current wine and food trends, and the history of the Niagara region. He is a champion of local wine, devoted to organics and loves recounting the colourful history of the Niagara region. He is also a gifted writer and it is a joy to read his weekly musings.

After a nice chat with Redelmeirer, he left me with a selection of the popular Triomphe wines made by winemaker Ann Sperling, above. These smartly priced wines represent a full suite of organic wines that showcase Southbrook’s unyielding pursuit of making sustainably farmed wines that are accessible, reasonably priced, and easy to enjoy for all wine drinkers.

Consumers have a few more days (until April 30) to enjoy these wines at 20% off for any 6 Triomphe Wines. Redelmeier just might show up on your doorstep with his order.

We have the full line up of Triomphe wines in review below, but first wanted to point out the key aspects of Southbrook’s sustainability program.

Organics: Less is more

Organic agriculture uses natural inputs. It uses less water, less energy, no synthetic pesticides, no chemical fertilizer, no bioengineering, and no genetic modification. Organic agriculture results in more biodiversity, conserves more water, and improves soil health. Southbrook’s first 75 acres were certified in 2008. As of 2010, the entire 150-acre property is certified organic and biodynamic. Southbrook partners with Linc Farm to offer grass-fed lamb and beef, along with forest raised pork and free-range eggs.

Biodynamics: Taking it to the next level

Organic certification is a pre-requisite for biodynamic certification. Biodynamics (BD) emphasizes the balance and interrelationship of a farm’s soil, plants and animals to grow low-impact, vibrant crops, including grapes. It treats the whole farm as a single living entity. BD involves the use of specially prepared composts, the addition of ingredients such as herbal teas, and the alignment of farming activities with lunar energy. Demeter is the international body that oversees biodynamic agriculture. Southbrook currently has one Demeter-certified biodynamic 75-acre vineyard (2008), plus an additional 75-acre property with full biodynamic status.

It doesn’t end there

Southbrook’s hospitality pavilion became the first winery building to receive the Gold level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in November 2008. Achieving LEED Gold certification for the buildings and activities was always a significant component of the Southbrook master plan.

Natural light prevails in the hospitality pavilion, while the floor-to-ceiling double-glazing controls temperature transfer. Walls are thoroughly insulated, and deep roof overhangs give added shade to the building. Indoor water usage is controlled by automatic and low-flow fixtures. Externally, Southbrook added a bioswale with native wetland plants to break down pollution from storm water draining off the access road and parking lots.

The Triomphe lineup

Note: Southbrook offers free shipping on orders over $120 and for club members. There’s a $25 flat rate for shipping on orders less than $120. The Triomphe wines are 20% until April 30.

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2017 ($25, 90 points) — This is a regional blend of Chardonnays from organic growers, including 70% “later harvested” Chardonnay Musqué from Lincoln Lakeshore, and the remaining 30% from Twenty Mile and Beamsville Benches and relatively late harvested at several dates throughout October. The slightly settled juice was transferred to 300 L used French oak barrels for wild fermentation, including wild malolactic fermentation, and aging for 7 months in those barrels. This has a bright nose of quince, nectarine, lemon, light and toasty spice notes, subtle ripe apple notes and flinty minerality. It’s juicy on the palate with a hint of savoury spices, cream, peach, pear, crisp apple, lemon zest and a lifted finish.

Southbrook Laundry Vineyard Riesling 2018 ($23, 91 points) — The organic Laundry Vineyard is a favourite for Sperling to source grapes from. Heather Laundry has been growing high quality organic grapes for 20 years, including Pinot Noir, Gamay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. This is a citrus bomb on the nose with grapefruit and fresh-cut lemon leading the way with limestone minerality, subtle petrol notes and just a smidge of jasmine joining the party. It’s vibrant, crisp and lemony on the palate with tree fruit, limestone minerality, a touch of honey, wonderful persistence and tension through a zesty finish. Should develop nicely in the cellar for 5-7 years.

Southbrook Triomphe Rosé 2020 ($21, 88 points) — This is mostly Cabernet Franc with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and has a bright magenta glow in the glass. It has a pretty nose of strawberries, cherries, wild raspberries and herbs. It’s fairly dry on the palate but loaded with juicy red fruits, herbs and finishing with mouth-watering acidity.

Southbrook Triomphe Gamay 2019 ($28, 90 points) — At this level of Gamay, Sperling is thinking more in line with Beaujolais village: “A little lighter but really delicious to drink, maybe on the patio, refreshing and almost too easy to drink.” Up a level, she also makes another Gamay, a cru-like bottling more akin to north of Beaujolais where the grape originated, which is bigger and bolder. It has pure aromas of red berries, meadow flowers, plums and subtle savoury and spice notes. It’s clean and juicy on the palate red berries joined by a touch of anise, earth, muddled herbs, spice and a fresh finish. Highly gulpable.

Southbrook Triomphe Pinot Noir 2019 ($30, 90 points) — This Lincoln Lakeshore Pinot spent 12 months in French oak before bottling. It shows a lighter colour in the glass but lifted strawberry patch, cherries, violets and light spice notes. It’s a medium-bodied Pinot on the palate that packs a punch with fresh strawberries, cran-cherries, touch of cassis and will integrated spice notes all leading to tangy, fresh finish.

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2019 ($25, 89 points) — A pinch of Merlot is added to the blend of this textbook Niagara Cabernet Franc that sees 8 months of barrel aging and is bottled unfined. It has a lovely savoury nose of cherries, herbs, field raspberries, anise, earth and well-integrated spice notes. It has some structure on the palate to go with savoury berries, cigar box cedar, spice and a lifted finish.

Southbrook Triomphe Merlot 2017 ($28, 90 points) — This 100% Merlot from around the Niagara peninsula is gently aged in used oak for five months. It has a pretty nose of cherries, black currants and cassis with a touch of smoke and spice. It has a lovely supple texture on the palate followed by a mélange of savoury red berries, spice notes and a perky, lifted finish.

Southbrook Triomphe Orange 2020 ($30, 88 points) — This skin fermented white wine is a blend of 55% Chardonnay Musque and 45% Vidal. The Chardonnay Musque part spent two weeks on the skins while the Vidal was fermented on the skins for three weeks. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered with no additives. Says Sperling: “For those that know and love our Estate Orange wine, this new Orange is a bit lighter in Oranginess (is that even a word?). There’s some tannin, as with all Orange wines, but less than in our estate Orange. Think of this wine as a good introduction to the genre.” And she is correct. Are you curious about orange wines and want to learn about the style? This is a great place to start. It shows a light shade of orange in the glass with some haziness. It starts on the nose with a ginger kick followed by peach, apple and citrus rind. It’s quite clean and polished on the palate, with the funk in check. The flavours range from pleasant marmalade, ginger, fuzzy peach and nectarine with subtle tannins and a racy lifted finish. This could be the orange wine that gets started on this now popular style of wine.

Niagara wines at Vintages stores May 1

Featherstone Rosé 2020 ($16, 89 points) — This rosé blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Gamay Noir (30%), Chardonnay (13%) and Merlot (7%) shows a bright cherry red colour in the glass. It has an expressive range of raspberries, cherries and strawberry patch on the nose just a hint of savoury herbs. There is subtle hint of sweetness on the palate that highlights the ripe red berries and kick of herbs and savoury notes on a bright, lifted and refreshing finish. An always reliable rosé from the folks at Featherstone.

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2019 ($30, 92 points) — This top expression of Chardonnay from HoP is sourced from the Short Hills Bench estate’s oldest plantings that were shovel planted by the Speck brothers beginning 1984. The wine is barrel fermented and aged in large format French barrels for 8-10 months. It shows a ripe nose pear, peach, quince and lemon blossoms with vanilla toast and elegant oak spices. It has a lovely creamy texture to go with a mélange of orchard fruits, lemon zest, spice, vanilla with a zesty, long finish and impeccable balance. This can age well for 5+ years to integrate the oak just a little.

Chateau des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 ($25, Vintages May 1, 92 points) — This estate Chardonnay is barrel fermented and aged sur lie for 12 months in French oak barrels with regular bâtonnage. It shows expressive pear, lemon toast, some tropical fruits, golden apple, butter and cream with elegant oak spice notes. It has a lovely creamy texture on the palate and is perfectly mature, with ripe orchard fruits, toasted vanilla and spice. All that and a finessed finish keeping it lively and fresh. Very nice, full-bodied, old style Chardonnay.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• The Foreign Affair Brut Sparkling Rosé 2019 ($26)
• Tawse Sketches Cabernet Merlot 2018 ($22)
• Riverview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18)
• Tawse Limestone Ridge-North Estate Bottled Riesling 2017 ($22)
• Creekside Laura’s Red 2017 ($25)