When I last wrote about Pondview Estate Winery, it was 2011 and Lou Puglisi and his family had just opened a tasting room to showcase their first vintage as winemakers. The family had been growing and selling grapes for 30 years; in fact, in 2008 Lou had been crowned Grape King, a highly acclaimed industry award provided by Ministry of Agriculture to recognize the finest grape growers in Ontario. As a prize, Lou was offered an all expense paid trip to the Okanagan British Columbia, where he visited a number of small, family-owned wineries. This trip sealed the deal – it convinced him that the time had come to take the next step, and to begin making wine.
Lou invited Fred DiProfio, whom he knew from his work at Pillitteri Winery, to be consulting winemaker. The first vintage was small – only 2800 cases. Lou (wearing black in photo below), Fred and his brother-in-law, Joseph Barbera (wearing red shirt in photo), did just about everything. “It was the three of us in the cellar, doing punch downs, bottling, labeling – we were doing it all. At this time, there were only three wines, a rosé, a Gewürztraminer and a Gewürztraminer Riesling blend. Most sold out in just a few weeks,” Joseph reminisces. He was always concerned that they didn’t have a red wine. “Lou, Fred and I talked about this and agreed we had to find a way to make one. Lou had put aside one barrel each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for the family’s consumption; Fred’s contacts in the industry allowed him to secure a barrel of Merlot. Those guys worked their magic, and we were able to present a Cabernet/Merlot blend ….but those 75 cases sold out as quickly as the others! Mama Mia, what a time!”
Since then, Lou’s expertise as a horticulturalist, the family’s dedication to quality and the unique contribution of gifted winemaker Fred DiProfio, have built Pondview’s reputation, driving demand among consumers and securing a long list of awards of recognition. Pondview expects to produce 12,000 cases of their wine this year, and has entered into a partnership with Marcel Morgenstern, their Director of Sales, to produce the virtual brand, Burnt Ship Bay. Facing limitations on their shelf space in Ontario, Lou and Marcel are turning to exports, introducing their wines to select European and US markets. The initial response in Europe has been very positive, considering, as Lou says, “there is no lack of wines to choose from!”
Given the high demand for their wines, we’re especially delighted to feature three of Pondview’s small lot and premium portfolio Bella Terra wines.
– Bella Terra Pinot Gris 2013 – a creamy, complex and flavourful white wine
– Bella Terra Cabernet Franc 2012 – a fragrant, succulent and well-structured red wine ready to enjoy or be cellared
– Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – the supple, full bodied, intensely flavoured Cab Sauv like no other from Niagara
You can order extra bottles through us or stop in for a warm welcome at Pondview on your next visit to the Niagara area! You’re bound to find Joseph, Lou, or his wife Adriana behind the tasting bar.
Pondview Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins
I’ve visited Pondview several times since we first featured them in 2011. And Lou, Marcel & Joseph are often at our Savvy Taste & Buy Events so we have quick chats while sampling their latest wine. When the opportunity for me to be the lead for this issue of the Savvy eZine came up, I jumped at the chance as it gave me a way to spend time with Lou and Joseph, and get into more depth about what has been happening at their winery over the past 5 years.
Lou (in photo) is as busy now as he was then, but in a different way. “For our first vintage, 2009, the wine was selling out, and we were on top of the world! We figured, we’ll go to 5,000 cases and sell the remaining grapes to our partners, as we’d done before. But then, the winery took on a life of its own.” While I am interviewing him, he is dealing with the harvest and getting ready for another trip to China, where he will be educating his import partners and promoting Pondview icewine in Shanghai and Beijing.
Hard to believe that in five short years, Lou is now discussing the burgeoning wine market in China and talking about how young professionals and members of the expanding middle class have a particular interest in red wine, while his icewines are in increasing demand with premium wine purchasers. In this context, he talks about the steps that Pondview has taken to guarantee the authenticity of their icewine. Developed in Bordeaux, ‘Proof Tags’ now appear on the neck of every bottle of ice wine. The tag can be scanned using a smartphone app, allowing the consumer to track the bottle from the point of purchase back to the originating winery, right to the vineyard. “It’s an additional cost to do this, but we want our customers, whether in China or right here in Canada, to be secure in the knowledge that the wine in the bottle was truly produced by us.”
He also talks about his satisfaction with Pondview’s entry into a few select European market – Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and England. And he’s building the business in these foreign markets with the same patient approach used to begin producing wine in Niagara – one customer at a time, one pallet of wine at a time, slowly building awareness and credibility. And this can be done now because of the family’s ongoing investment in Pondview. “You can’t sell what you don’t have”.
Over the last five years, a 10-acre plot adjacent to the existing winery estate has been purchased. It was planted 2 years ago with Viognier, Malbec and more Pinot Gris vines. More recently, 12 acres at the juncture of the Four Mile Creek and St. David’s appellations have been purchased specifically for icewine with Vidal and Cabernet Franc vines.
The core team remains in place – Lou, Fred (winemaker), Joseph and Adriana, along with a variety of well-qualified professionals have been brought in to support the growth in the business, including Marcel Morgenstern as head of sales, whom Lou has known since he was selling grapes to Pillitteri Estates Winery years ago.
Despite the work of identifying and entering new markets, and the amount of travel associated with it, Lou continues to be laser focused on the vineyards. He talks about the 2016 vintage as one of the most challenging in recent memory. “We had a warm winter, and the snow melted early, so we went into the growing season in a drought. Not ideal. Then we waited for rain that didn’t come.”
The Pondview name reflects the estate – there is a small pond onsite, but it isn’t large enough for ongoing irrigation of the vineyard. Fortunately, the family had purchased water rights to a creek that runs along the edge of the property, and water is regularly released into it – so irrigation during this past summer’s drought kept the vines alive and growing. But the desiccation of the soil was so profound, the vines struggled with nutrient uptake. Lou had to initiate new practices, such as using non-toxic foliar sprays of nutrients to help maintain vine health.
Irrigation and other interventions, like the foliar spraying, ensured the vines didn’t get overly stressed and were able to produce fruit with good concentration of sugars and flavours. “Over the last five years, we’re seeing more weather extremes – really cold winters, then two short crop years back to back. I don’t remember that happening before” Lou explains. “It looks like 2016 will go down as the hottest Niagara summer in recent memory. With changes in climate, farming practices will have to change as well, and early attention to vine health and continued monitoring will be required through the entire growing season.”
As our conversation draws to a close, Lou talks about his close partnership with Fred diProfio, and reveals much of his own philosophy. “I’ve known Fred for a long time. We respect each other and work very closely together, bouncing ideas around. We’re always willing to try something new.” And he says, with a smile in his voice, “Every day is a school day!”
~ SAVVY SOMMELIER TASTING NOTES ~
Bella Terra Pinot Gris 2013 VQA
The unique white wine is from a small lot (only 300 cases), produced from estate-grown fruit, barrel fermented and aged nine months in seasoned French and Hungarian oak. None of this wine was produced in 2014 or 2015 due to the effect of the very difficult winters of 2014 and 2015 on the vines. So you’re getting a ‘limited edition’ here!
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: There’s real complexity here – the aromas and flavours are a basket of lush Ontario orchard and pit fruits entwined with notes of fruit custard, sweet citrus and spiced caramel. Elegant and well balanced, the wine has a vibrant yet creamy texture and lingering spicy notes through the smooth lasting finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: This has the weight and depth to pair with holiday turkey, with smoked salmon canapes, or with a creamy artichoke risotto.
Cellaring: Enjoy now.
Bella Terra Cabernet Franc 2012 VQA
The hot 2012 vintage, considered a good one for Bordeaux varieties, provided good sugar levels and flavour intensity, while vineyard management ensured sufficient acidity was maintained. Unfiltered, aged eighteen months in French oak, this wine shows Lou’s dedication to the fruit and the vineyard, cropped at very low yields to ensure concentrated flavours.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Rich, ripe and fragrant on the nose, this warm, full bodied wine is bursting with aromas of spiced rose, succulent black fruit, licorice and earth. It’s refined, clean structure is a great counterpoint to the concentrated fruit flavours and it finishes with a lingering note of chocolate-coated coffee bean.
Suggested Food Pairing: Winter warming meals of prime rib or tortière would be a great match.
Cellaring: Drink now or cellar a further 3-5 years.
Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 VQA
The 2013 vintage was a challenging one, with a late spring, heavy summer rain combined with intense heat. Lou’s vigilance in the vineyard and strategy to use the long, warm fall weather to allow further ripening and concentration in the fruit ensured a wine of quality and great flavour. With a November harvest, the fruit for this opulent wine really benefited from that extended hang time, while in the cellar it was aged eighteen months in French oak and left unfiltered.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: There’s great intensity to the aromas of cassis, mingling with underlying notes of compost and tobacco, delicate dried herbs and spice. The purity of the cassis flavours combines with blueberry garnished with a dash of dark chocolate and hints of vanilla. This full bodied wine offers a round rich supple texture, a spicy, warm palate and a sumptuous long-lasting finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: Serve with braised short ribs or beef tenderloin.
Cellaring: This wine may be enjoyed now or aged a further 2-4 years.
~ RECIPES TO ENJOY WITH YOUR SAVVY SELECTIONS ~
With Pondview Bella Terra Pinot Gris…
Risotto with Artichoke
Photo Credit: Food & Style Magazine
Recipe Credit: Chef Hector Diaz (then at Hilton Lac-Leamy)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp shallots, chopped
1 ½ Tbsp each, small-diced carrots & celery
1 tsp minced garlic
1 c Arborio rice
½ c white wine
3 c hot chicken stock
¼ c heavy 35-per-cent cream
2 Tbsp diced, cooked artichoke heart (bottled or canned is fine)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 Tbsp Padano or parmesan cheese, grated
In a medium saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat and sauté shallots & vegetables until shallots are translucent but not browned. Stir in garlic, then rice to coat with oil.
Reduce heat to medium and add wine, half the chicken stock. Stir constantly until liquid is absorbed, then add remaining stock and continue to cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed a second time. Add cream, artichokes, and cook 5 minutes longer. Rice should be al dente; if it’s too hard, add just a little hot liquid & cook until it is.
Remove from heat, whip in butter & grated cheese; season to taste & serve.
With Pondview Bella Terra Cabernet Franc …
Grilled Vegetables with Buffalo Mozzarella
Photo credit: Broil King BBQ
Recipe Credit: Modified from on a dish served at the River’s End Restaurant & Inn located in Jenner, California
4 each red and yellow bell peppers, quartered lengthwise & seeded
2 large zucchini, cut into 12 thin diagonal slices
6 medium Portobello mushrooms, peeled, gills carefully scooped out
3 large fresh Buffalo mozzarella
6x 4” rosemary sprigs, leaves removed from lower half
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Whisk together marinade ingredients, then marinate peppers for about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, tossing with peppers & continue marinating for a further 15 minutes.
Remove vegetables from marinade (reserve marinade), cook in batches on heated grill, 8-10 minutes for peppers (or until lightly charred), 7-8 minutes for mushrooms. Brush with marinade during cooking.
Remove veggies from grill. Place mushrooms upside down on flat surface. Layer with a piece of red pepper, a slice of cheese, zucchini, yellow pepper, a slice of cheese and another slice of zucchini. Poke the rosemary sprig through the middle of each stack with leaves at the top.
Place veggie stacks on a heat-proof dish and return to grill (turned off) so that cheese can soften, then serve with fresh French bread.
With Pondview Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon…
Mustard-glazed Standing Rib Roast with Pan Gravy
1/3 c Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp coarsely ground pepper
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, or 1 tsp dried
1 standing rib roast (~7 lbs)
Salt to taste
Combine mustard, oil, soy sauce, garlic, parsley, pepper & rosemary. Brush over roast, including bones. Let sit for 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 450F. Turn on oven broiler. Place roast fat side up on a rack in a roasting pan & broil for about 4 minutes or until fat is crispy. Turn off broiler, reheat oven to 450F & roast for 30 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350F & roast for about 1 ½ hours longer for rare.
Remove roast to a carving board & let rest 15 minutes to allow juices to retract while you make gravy. Remove roast from bones & carve into thin slices. Serve with gravy, roast potatoes & green beans.