My First Day in Niagara Wine Country

Coming from Kelowna to Niagara, I had great expectations for my first day of wine touring.  


This was my first visit to a region that I thought I knew a lot about…but in hindsight, I was only scratching the surface! There’s nothing that can replace an in person visit. 


It’s 9:30am and I am greeted by Marcel and Lou from Bella Terra Vineyards, located on Line 2 Road in the heart of NOTL (the locals’ term for Niagara-on-the-Lake).  


The sun is shining, and for 45 minutes I listen to Marcel and Lou explain the geographical position of the vineyard versus the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, Niagara Escarpment, and of course Niagara Falls.  


Everything makes sense now that I can truly see the terroir. I can see why the Four Mile Creek Appellation is so well suited to grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and especially Cabernet Franc.  


This is not the land of Pinot Noir and Gamay… this is the land of the Big Red, and YES, there are many of them around here. 


First Stop: Big Head Wines. Jakub Lipinski, the son of founder Andrzej Lipinski, is waiting for me with a nice selection of 22 wines…. Yes 22 wines! First thing in the morning! It’s a good thing we had a spit bucket!  


We chat about their philosophy about Appassimento, botrytis affected grapes, carbonic maceration…but all along we taste some very impressive wines.   


We start off with the Big Bang Black, a sparkling traditional method. This turns out to be one of my favourites of them all, with a stunning 93pts, showing incredible complexity, flavours of blood orange, ginger, toasted almond, and a soft and persistent mousse.  


The Pinot Gris from the Raw series, a 92pt and one of my top 3 Canadian Pinot Gris this year, was a fun and refreshing pour.  


The creamy Riesling and a very special Savagnin, which both scored 93pts, were also part of my biggest enjoyments.  Savagnin (also known as Traminer) is a grape that you rarely see outside of France, and BY FAR my favorite expression of this grape I have ever tasted.  


These were only my top scoring whites. When we finally move onto the Reds, the 2018 Malbec from the Raw series was the star of the show with a healthy 94pts, along with the 2017 Biggest Red (Blend of Petit Verdot, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc) who also has a Rockstar score of 94pts in my books.  


The biggest Red is a big and bold expression of ingenious winemaking skills, and a wonderful expression and potential of the Niagara-on-the-Lake terroir.  


The 2018 Select Cab Sauv never disappoints me and consistently ranks among the top Canadian Cabernet Sauvignon in my books. 93pts is in order for this great Appassimento wine.  


We end the visit on a high note… with 100% Appassimento Petit Verdot that shows power, depth, concentration, spice, and spectacular length…another 93pts.   


WOW, Big Head Winery’s portfolio is as diverse as it gets, reaching new heights every year and showing Canadians that our local talents are ready to take over the wine world.   


Well done Jakub & Andrzej Lipinski, absolutely World Class…. 


This was just a start…. We had one more stop before lunch time! More to come next week ? 



Carl Boucher 


Join Carl’s Wine Club for free and discover more world-class Canadian wines! 


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