By Lory Diaz
During the amazing heat wave we were having in the last week of September, I travelled down to Niagara-on-the-Lake to enjoy the last bit of summer, and visit the beautifully understated grounds of Southbrook Vineyards. Several friends have raved about the complex flavours being created by winemaker Ann Sperling, and after taking their Earthly Infused tasting tour, I understand the hype. [Disclosure: I received a complimentary wine tour in order to write this review.]
Southbrook is located on the fertile lands that sit just north of the Niagara escarpment. Despite the other numerous vineyards in the area, it’s quite hard to miss the 208 meter long periwinkle wall that welcomes guests. The accompanying driveway and flower garden is reminiscent of the great chateaus and villas of France, but the large solar panels, bee hives, and cooling reflecting pond indicate strong footing in contemporary and cutting edge practices.
Southbrook contributes to the surrounding ecosystem in so many ways, and their monarch butterfly waystation is just one of them!
Upon entering the showroom at Southbrook, you’re struck by the amount of natural light that pours in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing the field of wines to come. We were the introduced to Angela, who had our four wines and food pairings ready to go.
We started with Ann Sperling’s specialty, a buttery chardonnay. The 2015 Organic Triomphe Chardonnay was paired with a tomato based soup. The acidity in the soup is meant to compliment the drier notes found in the wine creating a harmonious flavour profile. Angela informed us that pairings should be approached as a complimentary union, instead of contrasting. Fight fire with fire!
The next wine was the estate grown small lot 2013 Witness Block cabernet sauvignon-cabernet franc that had a slightly heavier profile. The acidic characteristics of the region’s wines come from the cooler climate, and since I’ve recently been experiencing some issues with darker reds. I experienced no such discomfort, and discovered a new delicious red! We were informed that this wine goes incredibly well with cheeses, as the fats in the cheese help coat the mouth and lessen the punch of the tannins – so you know what I’ll be serving at my next wine & cheese party!
I had requested a vegan food option, so my pairings changed in the third round: the Southbrook Whimsy Anniversary fortified wine with freshly toasted almonds. This is so delicious, that I bought two bottles. If you – or someone picky on your Christmas list – enjoys a sweeter wine with well-rounded notes, this is absolutely the wine you’ve been searching for. Conveniently, Southbrook will be at Evergreen Brickworks on select dates this fall and are happy to bring your orders into Toronto for pick-up.
Our final wine was the signature Framboise raspberry wine. This was the first fruit wine available at the LCBO, and is used to make Southbrook’s chocolate raspberry sauce which was drizzled on a decadent brownie for the last pairing. Once again, the sweet-sweet combination was not an overwhelming sugar explosion, but instead unexpectedly delicious and immediately addictive!
After our formal tasting was done, we were given a sample of Southbrook’s refreshingly complex wild ferment cider to enjoy as we walked around. Angela explained the many facets of being a certified biodynamic winery, and the environmentally-conscious features of the grounds.
She casually mentioned a comfort in being able to eat her lunch outside, knowing that the sprays used to deter insects and crop damage are created using a specific blend of teas instead of harsh chemicals or insecticides.
If wine isn’t really your thing, and you’re more of a beer fan, you should check out Southbrook’s barrel exchange partner: The Exchange Brewery.
The Seriously Cool collection of wines are the result of the polar vortex southern Ontario experienced in 2013. The winter storm hit Toronto hard, but Southbrook made some delicious wines as a result!
If you’re looking for a special occasion to celebrate, or just treat a wine lover you know, Southbrook is opening their library of vintages for sampling the weekends of September 30 and October 14, 2017. Make sure to check their website for full details, and to reserve a spot! If you can’t make it those weekends, don’t fret, as you can call Southbrook to book your own tasting tour at 1-888-581-1581. Make sure to say ‘hi’ to Angela!
If you’re visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake, you might want to see a play at the Shaw Festival 2017 .