Our ongoing series continues to spotlight Ontario wineries that deserve our support not only because they are a local small businesses, but because they produce an excellent, world class product. This month we feature Flat Rock Cellars.
Flat Rock was founded by Ed Madronich Sr., and it is operated with his son, Ed Madronich Jr. They are focussed on environmentally sustainable winemaking by using everything from geothermal heating and cooling to the use of gravity flow technology to reduce the use of pumps in the winery. They are also focussed on making great wines by choosing to work with some of the grapes best suited to Niagara’s terroir: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.
Their commitment to winemaking extends to who they chose as a winemaker for Flat Rock, Dave Sheppard. Dave has been making wine for over 35 vintages in Niagara, some of you may remember him as the winemaker at Coyote Run, and was trained by Niagara icon Karl Kaiser, one of the founders of Inniskillin. He moved to Flat Rock a few years ago and has concentrated on making great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling, which makes him a perfect fit with Flat Rock. His commitment to quality includes hand harvesting, hand plunging caps (these are the skins and pulp that float to the surface) during Pinot fermentation, and only aging in French oak barrels.
Some of Flat Rock’s wines are available at the LCBO and we have reviewed several this month. If you want to try more, make a plan to visit their winery on the Twenty Mile Bench near Jordan. 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.
Flat Rock Riesling 2018 ★★★★ $17.95 (Vintages) Riesling likes Niagara in general and the Twenty Mile Bench in particular. Great Riesling fruit here – it’s pale lemon, off dry, and delivers on the steely, racy grapefruit peel, lime pulp, lemon side with quite a bit of body. Great paired up with grilled Nicholyn Farm sausage with sweet horseradish mustard.
Flat Rock Twisted White 2016 ★★★½+ $17.95 (Vintages) Blends like this one can make an interesting wine indeed. The Gewürztraminer shines through here with its honeyed sweetness and lychee, followed by the lime peel and lemon from the Riesling, finishing with Chardonnay green and yellow apple. Just past off dry and recommended for chilling and sipping on the patio.
Flat Rock Chardonnay 2017 ★★★★ $19.95 (Vintages) Chardonnay is another of Niagara’s superstars. This creamy, medium bodied white with shows what cool climate Chardonnay has to offer and that is a lot. Ripe yellow apple, pear, clove, candied lemon peel, and vanilla wrap together in a nice package. Goes very well with shrimp pasta in a cream and garlic sauce or fettuccini alfredo.
Aveleda Fonte Vinho Verde 2019 ★★★ $11.95 (LCBO) Vinho Verde from Portugal proves that simple is beautiful. Light flavours of green apple, pear, and lemon combined with an off dry honeyed sweetness and a little “frizzante” fizziness. Great sipper or with your summer salads.
Ogier Ventoux Rose 2018 ★★★½ $14.55 (LCBO) Pale salmon pink in colour, it resembles the Roses of Provence, which is a good thing. Pleasantly dry with ripe cherry, strawberry, orange peel, and apple. Chill and enjoy as an aperitif or with your apps.
Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2018 ★★★½ $22.95 (Vintages) Pinot Noir is another of Niagara’s strengths. It’s hard to find a better entry level Pinot Noir at this price range. It highlights what the grape has to offer with little intrusion from oak in this wine – raspberry, ripe red cherry, and beetroot with a good cranberry finish. I love this with grilled salmon, roast chicken, or mushroom risotto.
Chateau de Gourgazaud Minervois 2017 ★★★½+ $14.10 (LCBO) Deeply coloured blend of Syrah and Mourvedre from South West France that exudes intense rosemary, thyme, black plum, leather, and earth along with a little vanilla. It’s dry and delicious with BBQ ribeye or, if you want a French pairing, cassoulet.
Honoro Vera Garnacha 2018 ★★★½ $13.95 (LCBO) Here’s red fruit, strawberry jam, oregano spiced, earthy bit of wine fun from Spain. Seriously good value here and quite good with a variety of foods. Try it with a pizza with prosciutto; the saltiness of the meat will make the fruit really pop.
Melini Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 ★★★★ $19.95 (Vintages) If you have not tried steak prepared Florentine style, that is, grilled and anointed with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh lemon juice, now is the time with this Chianti. It’s bright red cherry, vanilla, spice, piney forest floor, and earth combined with its high acidity and tannic grip will make a great pairing.
Gerard Betrand Fitou 2018 ★★★★ $17.95 (Vintages) A full bodied blend of Grenache and Carignan from South West France. The tannins are there, but not aggressive, and it delivers on the floral, herbal side with lavender and rosemary aromas followed by flavours of strawberry, red plum, and red cherry with a long finish. Go with a French theme for pairing – grilled lamb with tomato olive concasse.