It was my first day touring in Niagara, and we had one more stop before lunch time!
Before hitting the patio at Ravine Vineyard for lunch, we had a very highly anticipated stop at Icellars; another up-and-coming Superstar in the region of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
To be honest, I had never heard of Icellar before putting together a tasting marathon of 20 different Cabernet Sauvignon from all over Canada for International Cabernet Sauvignon Day. The 2018 Icellar Cab Sauv took first place with an amazing score of 94pts, and I wanted to meet the man behind this unexpected Cab Sauv discovery.
Have you heard the story of winemaker Adnan Icel? Adnan, a Turkish Canadian, fell in love with the beauty of the Niagara region and made a drastic shift from his 25 year career as a mechanical engineer and MBA grad…to start a winery.
Adnan is a self-taught winemaker and winery owner who planted his first 40 acres of vines himself. He built a fully geothermal winemaking facility completely off the grid, and is now working on his organic growing certification… all of that in the last 10 years. This is completely crazy to me in the best possible way ?.
I was greeted by Elif, Adnan’s wife and business partner, and Simba, the famous winery dog. Their beautiful tasting room helps you feel like you’re a part of the winemaking process…it’s set right inside a hangar among the barrels.
When we sat down for the tasting, I quickly realized that Adnan had plans to go through his whole portfolio. We started with the 2019 Sauv Blanc (Fume Blanc Style), with 18 hours of skin contact and 6 months of barrel aging… this was a WOW right away, and I gave it 90+pts.
We followed that with his 2017 Chardonnay (also 90pts) before trying his rose, where he blends a total of seven varietals for an outstanding result. A dry rose, with great strawberry and rhubarb flavours, great length and complexity (92pts).
… and then, it was time to taste some Reds.
We started with a couple of Pinot Noirs. I was very impressed with the bold and oaky 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir, a solid 92pts wine. After we tasted the 2017 Syrah, Adnan opened some of his red blends. I was particularly blown away by the 2016 Arrina Blend, an assemblage of 50% Merlot, 29% Cab Sauv, 17% Cab Franc, and 4% Malbec. WOW, Absolutely WOW… 93pts for this Rockstar blend.
We then tasted the 2017 Reserve Cab (92pts).
But the tasting would not have been complete without a barrel tasting of the Vintage of the Century, the 2020 Reserve Cab; soooooo smooooth!
After one hour and a half of tasting 17 different wines, chatting about his native land, the state of the Canadian economy, and touring the whole facility including the barrel room, Elif offered us a Turkish coffee.
Sadly, I had to decline because I had another winery to get to and was on a timeline. But Adnan would not let me go before I tasted his 2016 Riesling Ice wine. OMG… another revelation!
“…How in the world did this ingenious Canadian winemaker, Adnan Icel, pull off all these wines at such a high level? We will need to call it the ‘Adnan Touch:’ Everything he touches turns to amazing wine.”
Anyway, I shook off my stunned and surprised look, gave the Riesling Ice Wine a 95pts (as I don’t think that I ever tasted a better Ice Wine…) and off we went to our next tasting room.
What a memorable visit… thank you Adnan and Elif Icel!
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