It’s hard to believe that a week has gone by since I was overlooking the breathtakingly powerful and spectacular Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Niagara is far more than the water or the tourist attractions of the ‘wedding capital’ of North America. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a spectacular wine haven, especially this time of the year: beautiful homes along the water, dazzling fall colors on the trees, warm hues of the vineyards at harvest in contrast with the cool temperatures, and quite frankly some surprisingly good wine finds you might not expect if you’ve not ventured out of the wine country of the U.S. west coast.
This was my second visit to the Niagara VQA, and sadly, I still haven’t had enough time to enjoy the many quaint wineries. There will be many more trips in my future to explore it all, but I did manage to make a couple new ‘friends’ on this trip, and revisited a couple of favorites. Tonight, I think I’d like to introduce you to one of those favorite friends: Hillebrand Estate Winery.
The first wine I opened was their Trius White 2009. I’m thinking this one is going to be the one I pick at Thanksgiving because it just ‘works’. And there’s plenty to be thankful for in this one. In the glass, it holds a very pale straw color…reminds me of the fall fields actually. The nose more than makes up for any lack of color though. Very aromatic with strong floral and lemony citrus perfume wafting out of the glass. As it warms, you pick up a hint of pear or melon in it, but the floral and lemon bowl you over to start.
On the tongue, there’s a crispness to match the cool October air. Refreshing flavors of tropical fruit (I got a lot of pineapple) with that hint of lemon, some melon, and even a little pear flavor. Lots of fruit in this one, but not sweet. Like I said, it’s dry, crisp, and refreshing. This is going to be PERFECT with my roasted bird over the holidays. And apparently I’m not the only one that thinks this blend of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and unoaked Chardonnay is a winner as it has already received medals at some of the Ontario wine competitions.
The next bottle I opened is pretty much a ‘favorite child’. Seriously, I think it is my favorite Cabernet Franc…period. I tried it on the first visit, brought some back to try with my friends at Wine Flights in Leawood, Kansas, and we all agreed, this is by far one of the best Cab Francs we had ever tasted. This is their Showcase Cabernet Franc 2008. Their Showcase wines are truly that…’showcased’ by winemaker Craig McDonald. These are the ‘luxury’ wines and this one in particular is a Rolls Royce in my opinion. Brilliant ruby red in the glass with a whole host of complexities going on with the bouquet: dark fruits, mint, tobacco, and what I like to call the typical Cabernet Franc ‘funk’. The only way to explain it is to say it’s reminiscent of the way a forest smells after a rain. That smell is PERFECT in a glass of Cabernet Franc!
But not as perfect as the taste.
It is smooth and refined, complex but not overpowering. Those same sweet black fruits shine through with toasted vanilla oak. I will take this wine over a lot of Cabernet Sauvignons, quite frankly…or I guess in this case…’Franc’ly. This wine has received acclaim internationally. It should receive acclaim from your taste buds as well.
Hillebrand also has unbelievably exceptional icewines (which I will be reviewing in the next few days).
Not only are the wines exceptional, but the level of customer service is phenomenal. Keep in mind, I’ve only visited once before back in May (where they treated me like a queen for no reason other than because they wanted to). I walked in with my friends and found the lovely woman (Lynda) behind the tasting counter who had introduced me to the wines the first time. After 5 months and only one brief meeting, she remembered me on the spot. Again, one of the friendliest and most delightful people you will run into. She quickly spirited my friends and I (simply out of the goodness of her heart) up to the VIP room as she had done the time before. Upstairs, it was very busy, but we spotted the gentleman (Jeff) who had introduced us to the Showcase series five months prior. Again, he spotted and recognized us on the spot, and made certain he took care of us personally, answering any questions, and again, going over and above the call of duty. These people treat everyone that walks in like the most important person they have ever met.
If you decide you want a wine experience that is unpretentious, fun, and pure wine heaven, that will give you the royal treatment both in the glass and in your personal interactions, then I highly suggest you consider a wine trip to ONTARIO wine country…and Hillebrand Estate Wineries.
Trius White 2009: $19
Showcase Cabernet Franc 2008: $38.00