Flat Rock was a great winery!!!
How can you not like a vineyard that starts off with this
gem of a statement? “We start in the vineyard with low yields, progressive
viticulture practices and hand picking and sorting the grapes. We continue
inside the winery with a sexy gravity-flow design and the latest in wine making
equipment from around the world.” And according to them, “…it’s no fun for us
if you aren’t enjoying yourself.” I like these guys already.
One of the first things you notice about Flat Rock is about
how freaking cool the location is, and about how incredibly wonderful the
winery building is. Of course the drive there is unique. You drive through a series of small, winding roads so much so that you are sure you are lost...and of course, that's when you come upon it.
The rocks that are the geological foundation of the winery
and are found throughout the property are the roots of Flat Rock Cellars name.
Flat Rock Cellar was founded in 1999 on a spectacular piece of the Niagara
Escarpment known as the Jordan Bench.
The Flat Rock winery building is a
quirky, glass encased, hexagonal wine showroom that‘s incredibly distinctive.
While tasting wine at their tasting bar, you can look out over their gorgeous
vineyards which include breathtaking views of the Peninsula and across Lake
Ontario to Toronto.
Flat Rock Cellars is solely owned and operated by its
founder - Ed Madronich Sr. Born and raised in the area, the winery is the
fulfillment of a dream shared by his father and son. In 1954, his father
applied for a winery license, but was denied. More recently his son, also Ed
Madronich, established his career in the wine business and shared the passion
for wine. Combined, father and son have worked together to create Flat Rock
Ed Madronich Jr. is President of Flat Rock Cellars. Ed credits
a summer in France and exposure to a few choice bottles of wine for his
passion. Since that first foray into the vines, he knew that he wanted to make
great wines. Running Inniskillin for several years helped him to define his
approach to wine: one that both reflects and challenges conventional wisdom.
The winemaker is Jay Johnston. A native of Quebec, he was a student
in the Niagara College Viticulture & Winemaking program. While in school he
picked up jobs in the cellars and vineyards of some of the most respected
producers in the region. His passions were always cool-climate varietals like
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sparkling… he is also passionate about
terroir and English football. Through a chance meeting with Ed in August 2012,
Jay quickly realized that Flat Rock Cellars was the place to be and joined the
team for Harvest 2012, taking the Winemaking reins at Flat Rock Cellars.
Flat Rock Cellars’ vineyards are comprised of 80 acres of
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, with a small patch of Gewurztraminer for good
measure. They chose these varietals as an integral part of our overall
winemaking strategy, because they are best suited to cooler climate of the
Niagara Peninsula and more specifically the Twenty Mile Bench.
At Flat Rock they work hard to ensure low yields in the
vineyard. The vineyards at Flat Rock Cellars can produces a maximum of 15,000
cases – which was reached in 2008.
The first wines
we tasted from the Vin*o *lo *gy line of wines Vin*o * lo*gy is an entry level line
of wines, that are fresh and bright and inexpensive.
Vinology White 2011 is a light, fruity white, with lovely
tropical notes. Very easy drinking, with nice acidity and a clean, dry finish.
Soft and lovely.
Vinology Red 2011 is made from Pinot Noir and is a light
colored easy drinking red wine, with lovely fruit up front and low tannins.
Cherry and earthy tones give way to hints of white pepper. Great long lasting
finish for a light red wine. Very drinkable. A good solid food wine great for
2009 Chardonnay is a blend of their two clones of
Chardonnay, 76 and 95. The four different sites and soil types in which we grow
these vines give the wine great complexity. The winemaker’s notes read: “2009
has proven to be a great year…Big, bold aromas of citrus, chalk dust and sweet
oak blasts out of the glass. The palate is no more subtle, with a lime-like
acidity upping the intensity even further. As a compliment to the acidity, the
wine also has great texture and creaminess from the yeast stirring during its
time in barrel. The oak also imparts a hint of butterscotch to the wine and
there is ample chalky minerality on display.” I concur with these notes. The
wine was lovely, crisp, an lean. Apple, pear, and river stone come across on
the nose and palate. There is a lovely creaminess at the end. A beautiful
chardonnay. The oak was a lovely, light touch. Just enough to alter the wine,
but not so much it overpowered it. Beautifully balanced.
The tasting room was airy and lovely and was beautifully appointed with displays of all the families of wines produced by Flat Rock. And of course the views were tremendous. But the major portion of the tasting was now coming up...because Flat Rock Cellars excels at Pinot Noir.
For Pinot Noir
Flat Rock utilizes a 5-level gravity flow system, resulting in minimal handling and
no harmful pumping to help maximize the quality. The grapes are hand
picked. After sorting and pressing, the juice and skins are hand-plunged every
six hours to extract maximum color and tannin without over-extracting bitter
character. The wines are aged in 100% French oak barrels and go through
malolactic fermentation in the spring.
2010 Pinot Noir According to the winemaker’s tasting notes, “The
hot start to September had us picking Pinot Noir grapes over three weeks
earlier than in 2009…Each sub-block was gently destemmed and then allowed to
cold soak for 4-7 days to extract colour and aromatics from the skins.
Following this, the majority of the batches underwent spontaneous fermentation,
which lasted up to 10 days. The batches were kept separate again as they flowed
to barrel where they were left undisturbed for 10 months. Blending took place
in late July of 2011….”
This light to medium bodied red was filled with raspberry
and plum. Nice hints of vanilla and spice. The fruit and acid was solid up
front with low tannins on the back end.
A lovely, light styled Pinot Noir. Fabulous.
The 2010 Gravity Pinot Noir “spent between 3 and 6 days cold
soaking to extract color, flavors and aromatics from the skins before
fermentation with predominantly wild yeast.
During the course of fermentation the tanks were hand plunged four times
a day to further the extraction of colour and flavour from the skins. Post fermentation saw the wine gravity-flow
transferred off the skins into 100% French oak barrels with 30% being first
fill. Aging then took place from
October through to July, at which time the Pinot barrels most representative of
the Gravity style were chosen for the final blend. No finings were added to this wine.”
Gravity had more heft to it that the previous wine. More
cherry and dark cherry with bright raspberry and spices. The color was darker
and the fruits were darker than the previous wine. This had much for fruit up
front and much more earth. The flavors in general were bigger, bolder, more in
your face. It was in fact a lovely wine. A nice medium bodied pinot Noir with
color, extraction, and flavor. With all that is was also restrained. This is
not a monster California cab. It was more refined in the Burgundian sense. But
is was flavorful and confident in its statement.
2009 Reserve Pinot Noir was the third of the Pinot Noirs.
According to the winemaker’s notes, “The 2009 season proved to be a great year
for Pinot Noir and a great year for us to make our second Reserve Pinot Noir...
Eight of the best barrels from this block were selected in July 2010 as being
exceptional and they were blended and then returned to barrel. They spent a
total of 14 months in barrel before being re-blended and allowed to age a
further five months in stainless steel tanks. The wine was then racked, gently
filtered and bottled in June of 2011.”
This Reserve was the third to go to bottle of our 2009 Pinot
family of wines. Dark cherry, dark berries, beats and cola all come through as
promised. Nice acidity up front keeps this medium bodied, dark red, slightly
purple Pinot Noir from being over bearing. The darks fruits last a long, long
time as the acidity keeps the fruit going. Nice tannins keep the wine honest
and give is classic backbone, but don’t over power the fruit. A big, wonderful
Pinot Noir. Elegant, deep, sensual. Big cherry and pepper. Fabulous!
Here are the Pinot Noir 2010, the Pinot Noir Gravity 2010, and the Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 to see the difference between them.
Overall, after my experience I was thrilled with the Pinot Noirs I had tasted at Flat Rock and instantly catapulted it to a whole new level of wines that I love. These were the North American Pinot Noirs that I have been searching for The fruit of the west coast, and the elegance of Burgundy! Fantastic trio of Pinot Noirs! Gorgeous!!!