By Rick VanSickle
It’s been a decade since Grant Westcott and Carolyn Hurst made their first vintage of wine at Westcott Vineyards, but it seems like more, much more.
The “retired” couple left global careers in banking and tech and moved to Niagara in 2008 after purchasing a plot of land in Jordan Station. They planted 26 acres of grapes in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation and began their initial quest as grape growers. It wasn’t long before they sought the advice of local experts and winemaking trailblazers after being inspired by the terroir-driven Chardonnays and Pinots coming out of Moira Vineyard at Malivoire, 13th Street, Flat Rock and the Le Clos Jordanne vineyards and decided to expand from from grape growers to estate winery, and Westcott Vineyards was born. They made their first vintage in 2012 in true “garagistes” style with those first wines made in their equipment barn while the pair worked their way through the permit process for the main winery building.
The wines found favour with wine lovers from the very beginning and the evolution of Westcott has grown steadily with construction of the main building (which features a reclaimed 200-year-old timber frame and foundation from a barn several kilometers away) beginning in the fall of 2012, the tasting room opening in 2014 and the hiring of winemaker Casey Kulcyk in 2018. Also that year, Westcott bought the coveted Butlers’ Grant Vineyards, which increased their holdings to the Twenty Mile Bench and expanded their portfolio of mostly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wines to include Riesling and Cabernet Franc.
The team at Westcott has been busy this spring at Butlers’ Grant, “maximizing the potential of the best of the old vines we inherited, carefully pruning and focusing on lower yields of high-quality fruit,” said Hurst. “We’ve also replanted some areas with new vines that we are nurturing as they continue their journey to maturity. We’ve been really pleased with the wines from Butlers’ Grant and expect only better things in the years ahead.”
Do yourself a favour and take in the vibe at Westcott if you get the chance. A range of interesting things to do at the estate is planned for this spring and beyond as the team readies the tasting room and home vineyard and moves furniture back onto the patios, setting up the tent, expansion of the gardens and planting new trees, which will provide shade and windbreak as they grow and mature.
The official opening of the patio is May 19 with live music that night and May 21. Ricky + Olivia are back with their tasty menu for dining on the patio. There is also the tasting room patio, Muskoka chairs and private cabanas where you can enjoy a tasting flight and spectacular views looking down the escarpment.
There’s a lot going on at Westcott, but the main attraction is the portfolio of wines that is focused on the estate vineyards where the grapes are grown. Here’s what I tasted recently and liked:
Westcott Violette Sparkling Brut 2021 ($26, 90 points) — This sparkling blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Pinot Meunier is made using the charmat method. It has a pale pink hue in the glass with a nose of fresh strawberries, field raspberries, lime-citrus, and red apples. It shows a vigorous mousse that tapers to a gentle and persistent bead on the palate with an array of red berries, zesty citrus, apple slices and mouth-watering acidity keeping it fresh and lively through the finish.
Westcott Lillias Chardonnay 2021 ($25, 89 points) — This unoaked Chardonnay benefits from six months of lees contact with regular stirring. It’s fresh and fragrant on the nose with notes of peach, yellow apple, lemon, and pear. It’s vibrant and fruit-laden on the palate with ripe stone fruits, some creamy/lees notes and a zippy, fresh finish.
Westcott Block 76 Chardonnay 2019 ($48, 94 points) — This single block, single clone Chardonnay is wild fermented and aged for 16 months in neutral oak barrels and is bottled unfiltered. Such gorgeous saline freshness on the nose, then Bosc pear, apple skin, elegant and fully integrated spice with subtle lemon-citrus notes. It’s vibrant and mouth-filling on the palate with electric acidity that highlights the fresh pear, apple, quince, lemon zest, flinty minerality and seamless spice notes that melt into the fruit. It benefits from length and finesse through a lifted finish. It’s just starting to reveal its full potential, so I recommend a bit of cellaring or even a decant to get started. Make sure to tuck one or two bottles in the cellar to watch how this will develop over time.
Westcott Delphine Rosé 2021 ($20, 89 points) — This 100% Cabernet Franc rosé, sourced from the old vines at the estate’s Butlers’ Grant Vineyard, shows a slightly darker hue of pink than the Pinot rosé below. It has a robust nose of ripe summer strawberries, raspberry tart, earthy/savoury notes, and cran-cherry. It’s juicy but nicely balanced in a dry style with savoury red berries, a touch of cassis, red currants, and citrus zest on the finish.
Westcott Pinot Noir Rosé 2021 ($25, 92 points) — This shows a pretty, pale pink colour in the glass with a nose of brambly raspberries, fresh-picked cherries, a touch of herbs and earthy complexity. It has lovely texture and verve on the palate with brambly red berries, garden herbs, light tannins, and length through the vibrant finish. An elegant and joyous rosé that’s built for the dinner table.
Westcott Reserve Pinot Noir 2019 ($45, 93 points) — This Pinot is sourced from the estate’s Home Farm Vineyard with 30% of the fruit whole cluster pressed. It was fermented and aged in French oak, 20% of which was new oak, for 22 months. It has an intense nose of Morello cherries, black raspberries, anise, cocoa, subtle cedar notes and lovely integrated oak spices. Let it breathe and it will open up to reveal brambly raspberries, dark cherries, earthy/savoury notes, medium tannins yet smooth as silk, elegant spice notes and a long, finessed finish. Can cellar 4+ years.