Identifying Somewhereness

By Sara d’Amato

American wine writer Matt Kramer may have coined the term “Somewhereness”, but it is the group of now 13 wine producers in Niagara who have adopted the namesake to succinctly identify their purpose. To embody a sense of place in a wine is the noble aim of any quality minded winemaker. This guiding principle is the key message of Somewhereness which encourages the artisanship of top-tier wines in the province of Ontario. An anglicized way to describe the French, arguably Burgundian concept of “terroir”, the term “somewhereness” rebuts the idea that only established wines of the old world can accurately express a sense of place. The Somewhereness collective in Ontario are 13 like-minded wineries that are all relatively small, family-owned and with a focus on producing wines that are uniquely local and, more emotively, are reflective of regionally distinct cultural practices.

The collective has grown from six influential wineries to 13 which happily coexist. A recent interview with two of these partners: Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook Winery and Ed Madronich of Flat Rock Cellars resulted in an understanding that, on the surface, these were a collective of people that “I would like to have dinner with!”. In a more profound manner, the two men expressed that the group was made up of wineries with a “passion to reflect the unique geography of our sites and have demonstrated an established track record for quality production”. As the collective continues to grow, there is an opportunity to include trusted wineries from emerging as well as established wine regions throughout the province.

Redelmeier and Madronich expressed their respect for the VQA and the benefit it has bestowed upon Ontario wine regions. Yet, the VQA provides only a benchmark, a minimum standard of quality and does not rank wineries based on their achievements to excel beyond that entry level standing. At its base level, the VQA guarantees that wine labeled as such comes 100% from Ontario fruit. Reflective of a European model of appellation control, the VQA, also aims to ensure that resulting wines are representative of their individual appellations. This is done based on an investigation of grape varietals used, documentation of origin, lab testing for baseline requirements and a tasting panel of experts to determine its reflectiveness of place. What Somewhereness showcases are wineries that have successively exceeded these standards.

Annual tastings and events have been a great part of the Somewhereness approach, but the rise of COVID-19 has prevented such an annual showing. All is not lost as Somewhereness has asked the critics of WineAlign to taste through a representative selection of wines to curate three cases which are offered exclusively here. In order to have garnered a place in one of these boxes, the wines must have been recommended by the majority of our critics after tasting the selections. Although not all wines made the cut, I can say that the selections tasted exceeded our expectations.

If you would like to purchase one or all three of these cases, you have two options:

  1. You can sign up for only the first case. If you like it then you can always sign up for the second or third case later on. Delivery for the first case will be in mid-June.  
  2. You can sign up for all three cases at once and receive one case a month for the next three months (deliveries in mid-June, mid-July & mid-August). If you sign up for the three cases and change your mind, you can cancel anytime after the first or second case arrives.

Our reviews can be found here and our first case selections can be found below:

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2017, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara
Charles is known by just about every sommelier in Toronto and has been a stalwart figure on the Ontario wine scene for over two decades. Through a partnership with Stratus winery he has been carefully selecting fruit from two distinct vineyards – Picone in Vinemount Ridge and Ivan from 20 Mile Bench and his wines are demonstrative of the the dynamic energy that riesling from select sites is capable of producing in Niagara.

Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2017, Beamsville Bench, Niagara
Right out of the gate, Hidden Bench produced head-turning wines which stemmed from the non-interventionist, estate-driven vision of Harold Thiel. The estate now consists of 100 acres of organic vineyards in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation. Success with a focused production of chardonnay, riesling pinot noir and Bordelaise varieties has been an influential driver for many new wineries throughout the region.

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2017, Prince Edward County
Dan and Lynn Sullivan are for many, the faces of Prince Edward County – exuding the region’s joviality, hospitable nature and impressive reach for excellence. With their partner Cam Reston, they have established a farm atop the notable Hillier clay soils very close to Lake Ontario. A focus on European, vinifera grape varieties as well as a passion for experimentation have established Rosehall Run as a destination of undeniable value to wine aficionados.

   

Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2016, Niagara
Its gravity fed construction and distinctive architectural features created an almost cult-like hype surrounding Maury Tawse’s venture even before its opening. Since its first vintage almost 20 years ago, Tawse established itself as a regional leader in sustainable winemaking with a distinct focus on Niagara’s most respected grapes varieties.

Southbrook Vidal Skin Fermented White Orange Wine 2019, Niagara
Southbrook are tremendous ambassadors for Niagara’s wine scene led by Bill Redelmeier and the one of the region’s most celebrated and cerebral winemakers, Ann Sperling. The winery continues to focus on organic and biodynamic viticulture with a keen, low-interventionist approach. Sperling’s empirical approach leads innovative, thoughtful wines based on chardonnay, vidal, cabernets, merlot and syrah are most. Rightfully celebrated, Southbrook’s wines provoke debate and inspire experimentation.

13th Street Gamay Vin Gris 2019, Creek Shores
A combination of prowess in growing from owner’s Doug & Karen Whitty along with the winemaking pedigree brought by Jean-Pierre Colas of Chablisienne, Beaujolais and Chilean expertise, has resulted in some unapologetic and idiosyncratic wines worthy of broad attention. Sparkling wines are a forte but old vine gamay is perhaps the winery’s most distinctive bottling.

Bachelder Les Villages Gamay 2018, Niagara
Thomas Bachelder is a veteran of Niagara but his global and most notably, Burgundian influences have greatly influenced the stylish nature of his coveted wines. Born in Montreal and as bilingual as one can get, Bachelder made a huge impact on Niagara as the inaugural winemaker for the ambitious Le Clos Jordanne project. The connections he has made with local growers, a thoughtful approach and his fastidious attention to detail has made him a force to watch with respect to chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay.

Westcott Estate Pinot Noir 2016, Niagara
From town to country, Grant Westcott and Carolyn Hurst made the move to Niagara in 2008 with a focus on great chardonnay and pinot noir. This family of redheads have made passionate contributions to elevating further the reputation of the Twenty Mile Creek region.

Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2017, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
An impressive construct, Flat Rock continues to be cutting edge in terms of its ability to blend technology with respect for land. A stalwart supporter of screw-cap closures, Flat Rock’s modern approach has produced unique sparkling wines, nervy riesling’s from Nadja’s vineyard and distinctive chardonnays and pinot noirs. Owner Ed Madronich’s winery also offers impressive views from its towering but not imposing 360 degree viewing room.

   

Cave Spring Cabernet Franc Estate 2018, Beamsville Bench
Riesling has set Cave Spring apart, but this established winery and its pioneering spirit for vitis vinifera has launched a plethora of Niagara’s finest from some of the region’s oldest vineyards. Located in the town of Jordan it was established by the Pennachetti family in 1986. Winemaker, philosopher and literary aficionado Angelo Pavan brings an immense wealth of expertise to the wines that he has crafted at Cave Spring over the decades of production.

Stratus Merlot 2013, Niagara-on-the Lake
Stratus can impressively claim that it was the first LEED certified winery in the world. Since its anticipated entry into the Niagara scene in 2005, JL Groux’s winemaking prowess in the art of assemblage has produced coveted, dare I say “iconic” results. From geothermal heating to a chemical free approach, Stratus continues to be a example of progressive modernism.

Malivoire Stouck Farmstead Red 2017, Lincoln Lakeshore
Martin Malivoire led an exciting Hollywood life before his entry into the organic Niagara scene. Winemaker Shiraz Mottiar has not only contributed expertise and congeniality but also growing prowess from his own Mottiar vineyards. Gamay has been peaking the interest of wine critics but the winery has a notable reputation for chardonnay, gamay and pinot noir as well as the hybrid variety of Marechal foch.

 

Santé!

Sara

If you would like to purchase one or all three of these cases, you have two options:

  1. You can sign up for only the first case. If you like it then you can always sign up for the second or third case later on. Delivery for the first case will be in mid-June.  
  2. You can sign up for all three cases at once and receive one case a month for the next three months (deliveries in mid-June, mid-July & mid-August). If you sign up for the three cases and change your mind, you can cancel anytime after the first or second case arrives.