Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ravine Vineyard St. David’s Bench, Niagara on the Lake (CA)

To say there snow on the ground was putting it mildly. I was driving by myself in the middle of Niagara on the Lake wine country in Canada, and the snow plowed to the side of the road was somewhere well above two feet on either side. And it was snowing. Just goes to show you what a psychopath I am about visiting new wineries. I love it. I can never seem to get enough. There is always something new to discover. To see how other people do it and change it up. Or to simply see how well they do it.
Well, they do it well at Ravine. Now, as an east coaster, I am familiar with Ravines in the Finger Lakes. But this is not Ravines…’s Ravine. A subtle, but important difference. The one thing they both have in common? They both make excellent wine. Honestly, I do not know who came first or second.

Now, Ravine has an excellent reputation. They have a reputation for making excellent and exceptional wines. The winery also has a reputation for food, because the winery has a restaurant attached. And the restaurant is a “go to” kinda place. They do all local produce and products paired with their wines. As it should be. I was not able to eat here, but I have to say it was recommended by a good half-dozen people who were very vocal in their support of the restaurant. And the reviews are enticing.

The tasting room takes up the downstairs of a beautiful , old, center hall Colonial-styled house, white with blue trim. And the downstairs is the tasting room. It is warm, inviting, charming. Few wineries make you feel this welcomed when you walk in And the staff is as nice as could be. Sometimes the staff can be a little chilly in certain tasting rooms. Not at Ravines. They are chatty and helpful and friendly without being pushy. I liked it a lot.


The winemaker is Shauna White. She is pretty, young, and very talented. She’s under 30! And she has an incredible touch! White was born and raised in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, the western wine country of Canada just above Washington state. She grew up on a farm, and did it her whole life. Her aunt, Anne Sperling, is the winemaker at Southbrook Farms, one of the other very high end wineries in the same region. White finished college at Niagra College, one of the best winemaking schools in Canada, nay, North America. She eventually worked for a winery in Chablis, Domaine Larouche. She also worked for Ponzi in Oregon, Brokenwood in Australia, Le Clos Jordanne in Niagara, and Mount Difficulty in New Zealand. This is an impressive resume. She’s made wine in four different countries. And she’s about to turn 30! And she’s one of the best winemakers in the region? What else can’t this winemaker accomplish?!

OK, enough…great wine, great food, great winemaker…where’s the wines? Here we go….

The primary red at Ravine is Cabernet Franc. They make Merlots and Meritages, etc. Yes. But Cab Franc is their lingua Franca…and believe me, when you’re done, you’ll want to speak their language. This is some of the best Cab Franc you’ll have anywhere.
Ravine Sand and Gravel Cabernet Franc 2011 was the first wine I tried. Sand & Gravel I a line of wines popularly priced. More often than not they are made with non-estate fruit. This Cabernet Franc was lovely. It had bright and dark berries…cherry and raspberry, and red currant. A lovely, smoothness to it. A wonderful wine with good fruit and a nice dry finish. Very much a burgundy styled Cab Franc finished on the lighter side. Very nice!
Ravine Estate Cab Franc 2011 is a big cherry bomb.Still very much made in the Burgundy style, it was only slightly darker in the glass. Bright and dark cherry abounds in the bowl and on the palate. Hints of red currant, with good acidity and solid tannins. This is darker than the previous wine. Obviously a little more masceration, and absolutely more intense flavor. A very, very nice wine. A great, strong finish. You’re not sure how the final one can compare.

Ravine Cabernet Franc Reserve Picone Vineyard 2010 The grapes are from the Vinemount Ridge. This was a special wine. This is easily the darkest of the three. It’s big and bold, more a Bordeaux-styled Cab Franc with big, deep redish, verging on purple for color. Lots of dark cherry here, hints of mocha and slate. This is a big, deep, rich wine. I thought this was their premiere red. Easily my favorite. An absolutely fantastic, distinctive wine. One of the best wines I tried on the entire trip.

Ravine Reserve Merlot 2007 was next. This was also a gorgeous dry red wine. The nose and palate were stewed dark raspberries and plums. And there were other exotic spices on the nose. Lovely, luxurious fruit stayed with you long after the pop of the dry finish. A gorgeous wine I savored an extra-long time. This was another extremely lovely red wine.


Michael Stadtlander Reserve Red 2009 was made exclusively for renowned chef Michael Stadtlander. You can only buy it at his Eigensinn Farm in Singhampton, or at Ravine. This is a big, big wine. It is a deep, dark proprietary blend that exudes dark fruit. Dark cherry, blackberry, and cassis all come through on the nose and palate, with hints of anise and vanilla.


While one usually starts with white, I ended my trip to Ravine with one white…the Ravine Riesling. Riesling is as big in Canada as it is in the Finger Lakes. Ravine Estate Riesling is an off-dry, semi-sweet kind of white wine. Straw colored, it exudes tropical flavors of melon, mango, and apple. The wine is made from 20% boytritis affected fruit. The resulting wine had a richness to it that was impressive without being cloying in anyway. The acidity was high, and the flavor was phenomenal. Absolutely wonderful!

My tasting done, I must confess, I did not want to leave. I wanted to buy a glass, and sit in front of the fire and savor it as the snow blew around outside. But that was not to be! I had to soldier on. But I definitely was to go back. Oh, yeah!

Congrats to Shauna and the owners and the staff. Excellent job!!!