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…..it’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
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
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