Love Local – Focus on Niagara’s Featherstone Estate

Last month the importance of supporting small businesses was occupying my mind.  Since wineries are local small businesses, we will feature some of them for the next few months starting with Featherstone Estate Winery.

Featherstone’s 23 acre vineyard and winery are located near the village of Vineland in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation of the Niagara region.  It was founded in 1999 by the husband and wife team of David Johnson and Louise Engel: David manages the vineyards and is the winemaker (he was named Ontario winemaker of the year in 2019) and Louise manages the business end of the operation.

Their philosophy for grape growing is the foundation of the quality of their wines since they understand great wines are made in the vineyard.  Featherstone practices sustainable viticulture and is eco friendly.  That means they have not used pesticides since 1999 and they look for innovative, environmentally friendly ways to manage their vineyard.  For instance, their crew of sheep will arrive by the end of June.  These unique labourers will mean they don’t have to use machinery to thin the lower leaves from the vines or mow to control cover; the lambs happily munch the leaves and grass leaving the grapes alone.  Later in the growing season, when birds looking to snack on the ripe grapes become pests, they bring out their secret eco weapon, Amadeus, the Harris’s Hawk.  While others are using propane powered bird bangers to keep their grapes intact, Louise, a licensed falconer, releases Amadeus for flights above the vines.  The birds quickly leave when faced with a raptor eyeing them.

If all that doesn’t pique your interest, they have an outdoor pizza oven that they fire up in the summer and fall.  Drop by and take in the scenery, the wines, and the pizza when we can get out again.

There are Featherstone wines available the LCBO.  Thus, you can taste some even during these trying times – several are reviewed here.  My ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.

Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2017 ★★★★ $18.95 (Vintages)  Ontario Riesling is noteworthy for its  excellence and Featherstone christened this one after their vineyard sheep.  It has enough sugar to classify as medium sweet, but the acidity gives it so much verve it tastes off dry with soaring flavours of lime peel, lemon, wet stone, honey, and a suggestion of kerosene.  It’s a joy served with a marmalade glazed ham or a veggie stir fry.

Justin Monmousseau Vouvray 2017 ★★★½ $19.95 (Vintages) Lovely off dry 100% Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley here. It just a shade over medium bodied with good acidity. Expect apricots, yellow apple, minerals, and waxy honeycomb finishing with a little lemon pith. Enjoy this with shrimp sautéed in butter.

Malivoire Vivant Rose 2019 ★★★½+ $19.95 (Vintages) A wine that takes me back to the first Roses I fell in love with in Provence many years ago.   A beautiful pale pink in the glass, it sings with vibrant sweet red cherry and pear on the nose, added raspberry, strawberry and cranberry on the palate, and finishing with some lemon, grapefruit, and green apple.  You really must try it with Provencal style cuisine (dishes with tomatoes, black olives, and garlic).

Featherstone Cuvée Joy Rosé Sparkling 2017 ★★★½+ $29.95 (Vintages) Made from 100% Pinot Noir, expect pure red cherry, strawberry, cranberry, and raspberry with a whiff of fresh bread and a lemony finish.  This sparkler would make a fruity and fun aperitif or pair it with a Greek style meal featuring pork souvlaki.

Masi Bonacosta Valpolicella Classico 2018 ★★★ $17.00 (LCBO)  Masi produces reliable Valpolicella year after year like this one that’s dry with simple, pleasant sour cherry, spice, and earth.  I was first recommended this wine standing in line at the LCBO when I was a University student; it’s still good.  Serve it with your favourite Friday night pizza or pasta al forno.

Le Calvane Quercione Chianti 2016 ★★★½ $14.95 (Vintages) Well put together, just over medium bodied Chianti.  It’s full of earthy, juicy red cherry, fennel, spice, and just noticeable vanilla.  Food friendly acidity and relatively high tannins makes it an equally good pairing for pasta in tomato sauce with meatballs or steak.

Creekside Gamay 2017 ★★★½ $19.00 (Vintages)  Interesting take on Gamay. Nutmeg and clove spiced new French oak gives way to sweet, ripe strawberries and tart red cherries. Easy to drink with soft tannins, but nice acidity. Dishes with laden with old cheddar like macaroni & cheese would pair up well.

Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ★★★★ $18.95 (Vintages) When you think of Argentina and wine, is Malbec the only thing that comes to mind?  Think again and try this very good Cabernet from Mendoza.  It has high, but not aggressive tannins, and is on type for the grape.  Think cassis, black cherry, mint, vanilla, spice and tobacco with a long finish.  It’s a tasty match for braised beef with tomato.

Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2017 ★★★½+ $19.95 (Vintages) Here`s an elegant take on Cabernet Franc from Niagara with aromas of black cherry, raspberry, red currant, vanilla, spice, green herbs, and just a little dried orange peel.  The palate follows the nose with noticeable, but not aggressive tannins with a good finish.  Pork tenderloin with dried fruit or roast beef would match up quite nicely.