Saturday, February 26, 2011

Niagara-On-The-Lake Winery Visit: Reif Estate Winery

Another in our series of reports on Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, wineries.

Sometimes a wine experience can reverse in a flash. A non-descript winery visit can flip with the acquaintance of a new friend, an amusing story, or a wine discovery.

The TWAV tasting team rolled into Reif Estate Winery with high expectations. The outside looked great and the wine boutique was busy with tasting tourists, displays of bottles, and a large and central tasting bar.

Reif is one of the NOTL founding family wineries. Ewald Reif planted the vineyards in 1977 and the winery opened in 1982. Today the vineyard produces a full range of varietals including Vidal icewine and premium “first growth” reds from the oldest vines.

We started with a a 2009 white wine called Trend. This was a weak and unremarkable wine that earned two thumbs down from the crew. We moved then to what we thought would be a cool group of wines, the Jera Collection. Jera is an ancient rune representative of a good harvest.

We sampled the 2008 Laguz, an off-dry white wine. The winery brochure fails to mention the actual grapes used, so the taster is left guessing (Vidal Blanc perhaps with some Chardonnay and Riesling?).
Whatever the mixture, we found it uninspired. That’s when our tasting experience changed gears.

Our server was Archie, who had a wild mustache and a great
personality. He asked how we were enjoying the wines and we leveled with him – we weren’t impressed. Then it was Archie to the rescue.

First, he told us that the Jera wines are really an attempt to create a mass-market wine that will appeal to the Millennial crowd. Despite the New Age names (like Ingwaz, Sowhilo, and Mennaz) they really aren’t sophisticated wines.

He grabbed the bottle of 2007 Meritage and we savored this elegant wine that hinted at licorice, cherry, and currant. There are almost equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon highlighted with a dash of Cabernet Franc. This brought smiles of approval from Ace of Bass and Glorious T. This bottle goes for about $27 CA.

While Archie was dispensing the wine, he was also dishing out wine knowledge, including his wine tasting tips. One notable one was that when enjoying your wine with your meal, drink some of the wine before you swallow your food so you can truly enjoy the pairing.

Our grand finale was the 2007 Shiraz. This was a beautiful pepper encrusted wine that is very soft. It has flavor notes of raspberry and black currant and is deep purple. The wine had subtle herbal tones and Archie mentioned that this would go especially well with dishes seasoned with Rosemary.

We enjoyed Archie’s company for just a while longer and then stepped out to relax on the winery’s grounds before shooting to our next stop.

Reif went from bust to blast and we recommend it highly to you.
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