Imagine arriving at a picturesque vineyard in Ontario – horses are grazing in the distance, a pond with a fountain gently gurgles and a hovercraft is waiting to pick you up for an aerial view of the vines below.
You then hop aboard a speedboat and zoom across the lake – Niagara Region farmland and wildlife abound. Along the way, you indulge in tasting one, or maybe four, glasses of sweet wine. The entire day is a sensory experience that starts at the tip of your tongue and flows down to your toes. And the next morning, you wake up without the slightest hint of a headache.
This is the vision for Atlantis Niagara’s upcoming tourist destination, an innovative approach to getting Canadians excited about drinking local, all-natural wine from Ontario. Located in Beamsville, the luxury winery has been specializing in making premium ice wine without any added chemicals for the past four years. With the momentum behind their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, they plan to combine sightseeing and sipping for wine connoisseurs and adrenaline junkies alike.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to visualize the grounds as a bustling tourist destination when we pull up to the production facility on a cold November day. But as soon as owner and winemaker, John Kocsis, and his wife greet us, the passion behind their business is clear. The family takes a hands-on approach to growing their grapes in premium soil, working the fields, vinifying the juice and even designing the artwork for their bottles.
The large warehouse is outfitted with wine presses, barrels and all the components for a night of wine tasting. In the corner sits an enormous speedboat, the same one that Kocsis plans to use for his tours in July.
But tonight, it’s all about the wine. Fitting for a Friday, Kocsis describes Atlantis Niagara’s offerings as “sweet, easy to drink, party wines.”
We start with the 2013 Gewurztraminer Late Harvest, a smooth and fruity wine with notes of lychee, pineapple and guava. Silky and aromatic, this wine goes down perfectly when accompanied with aged Ontario cheese, olives or even a bit of dark chocolate.
With dinner, we move onto a dry but equally delicious table wine, the 2011 Angelo Rossi Cabernet Franc Winter Harvest. Higher in alcohol at 15 per cent, this amber-coloured wine warms the palate, complementing a winter meal of grilled haddock, seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes.
The Angelo Rossi was the second wine that Atlantis Niagara produced, but their true specialty is ice wine – particularly the Red Ice, which we taste after dinner. With notes of strawberry, rhubarb and cherry, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon has a candy-esque quality, making it a dessert in itself.
Later, we move on to tasting the 2010 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, a crowd favourite with its tantalizing notes of dried apricot and blackberry currant spice. Looking around the room, everyone had a smile on their face while sipping the ice wines, which instantly made me think what a perfect addition either bottle would be to a holiday celebration.
“We do small, meticulous batches – I don’t trust anyone in the process, I do it all myself,” says Kocsis.
The real treat came at the end of the night, when guests were invited to taste tank samples of the 2013 Vidal Ice Wine. Though the wine had yet to develop its true colour, it had a punchy flavour profile with delectable hints of marmalade, peach and a luscious honeyed finish.
On the way home, guests sipped on the 2012 Sassafraz Vidal Winter Harvest, keeping the party going all the way from Beamsville to Toronto.
“When you come out here, we want you to taste our wine and understand what we’re doing, but we also want you to have an experience that you take home, a buzz that you remember whenever you think about Atlantis Niagara.”
It’s safe to say that the buzz was undeniable, and as for a headache in the morning? Not a trace. We may have just found the perfect wine to ring in the holidays with.