Why These Corporate Executives Left Their Jobs and Started a Winery in Niagara

“There are a thousand decisions in every bottle.” So says Westcott Vineyards President & Co-Founder, Carolyn Hurst.

 

This saying rang through my head as I tasted three Westcott Chardonnays side by side recently.

 

The Chards were impressive – and all very different.

 

And while each of the Westcott wines I tasted magnificently display the single vineyard – or single block – that they come from, they also display the thousands of small decisions made every day by the Westcott team.

 

So, speaking of decisions…

 

Why did Carolyn Hurst, with her husband Grant Westcott, make the decision to leave their successful careers in Toronto and start a winery?

 

What was the big decision they made in 2018, where they literally “bet the farm”?

 

If you rewind to the early 2000’s, after many years in global careers in banking and tech, Grant and Carolyn were thinking of retiring.

 

But in all honesty, they knew they were not the type that could “retire”…they wanted to create a new project that would feed their passions and allow them to work together.

 

With Carolyn being a native of the Niagara region and a passionate oenophile, and Grant being a former cattle farmer and no stranger to working the land, purchasing and running a vineyard seemed like the perfect way for the couple to combine their passions.

 

 

Initially the two thought they would grow grapes and sell them to other wineries, and so they started with a vision of the type of wine they would love to help to create.

 

After consulting with local experts and winemaking trailblazers, and being inspired by the cool climate Chardonnays and Pinots coming out of Moira Vineyard at Malivoire, 13th Street, Flat Rock, and the Le Clos Jordanne vineyards, they searched for the perfect plot of land, planted twenty-six acres of grapes, and were on their way!

 

As time went on, however, they realized that they wanted to produce their own wine under their own Westcott Vineyards label.

 

 

 

 

“In 2008, we sold the house in Toronto, moved the family to Niagara, and our true journey to become winemakers began; it was truly a good year.” – Carolyn

 

They made their first vintage in 2012 in true “garagistes” style.

 

Their first wines were made in their equipment barn while the pair worked their way through the permit process for the main winery building.

 

They continued their study of cool climate viticulture and were delighted to have their son, Garett Westcott, join them in the vineyard and Alain Sutre guide their viticulture practices the next year.

 

 

Construction on the main building (which features a reclaimed 200-year old timber frame and foundation from a barn several kilometers away) began in the fall of 2012.

 

The tasting room was opened in July 2014 and their daughter, Victoria Westcott, joined the team.  Jessica Ramage joined in 2017 as Director of Sales, and Casey Kulcyk took over full-time winemaking for the crush of 2018.

 

 

Also in 2018, Carolyn and Grant  “bet the farm” and bought Butlers’ Grant Vineyard, one of the most prestigious vineyards on the Twenty Mile Bench.

 

This enhanced their portfolio to expand their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and introduced Riesling and Cabernet Franc to their offerings.

 

Grant and Carolyn are excited about the promise their wines are showing and strive to improve every year, constantly growing and listening – to the earth, the grapes, and their customers.

 

They are at 3180 17th Street, in Jordan Station, waiting for you to join them and share a glass of wine.

 

I love that inspiring story – and here’s the kicker. That “bet on the farm” from 2018 paid off. Big time.

 

I tasted the newly released 2020 Butler’s Grant Chardonnay and gave it 94 points.

 

And when you taste their other Chards – for instance the 2020 Westcott “Reserve” Chardonnay or the 2019 Westcott “Block 76” Chardonnay, you can see the very different styles, flavours, and distinct vision for each one.

 

This is another example of why I believe that Terroir – that which shows the wine’s sense of place – includes the winemaker’s talents and philosophy. Heck, Terroir includes the whole team; from the owners who set the vision, to the cellar hand who makes sure that the daily tasks are completed to the highest standard.

 

I’m thrilled about the future of Westcott Vineyards and the love, passion, and dedication behind this amazing project. I hope you have a chance to visit soon!

 

In the meantime, check out my tasting notes on the 3 Chardonnays below. This side-by-side tasting is an amazing way to spend a date night, or a family get together.

 

You can purchase the exclusive Westcott Chardonnay Terroir Pack for a limited time here: https://www.carlscellar.com/westcott

 

 

2020 Westcott “Reserve” Chardonnay

 New Release

 

Ontario, Niagara, VQA Vinemount Ridge

100% Chardonnay | Dry wine (RS 2.5 g/ltr)

Not Rated Yet

 

This is the Chardonnay with the most oak influence in Westcott’s portfolio. This incredibly rich and balanced wine was barrel fermented (100% wild ferment) and aged in 100% French oak for 10 months, which 25% was in new oak barrel, a fairly big amount knowing the Westcott philosophy and the strength of the 2020 vintage.

You can expect a big and creamy Chardonnay with next level concentration. This one can sit in the cellar for multiple years.

 

Food pairing: Coho salmon with creamy dill sauce, coquilles St-Jacques

Drink between 2023 and 2027

Winery price: $44.99

 

 

 

 

2020 Westcott “Butlers’ Grant” Chardonnay

 New Release | Wine Club Member Exclusive

 

Ontario, Niagara, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

100% Chardonnay | Dry wine (RS 3.0 g/ltr)

94pts Carl’s Wine Club

 

This was one of my highest rated Westcott wines, while visiting Niagara in the fall of 2021. Low intervention, low sulfur, wild ferment and malolactic fermentation, barrel fermented and aged 9 months in French oak, of which only 12% was new.

These very precious grapes were meticulously sourced from 30 year old vines at Butlers’ Grant Vineyard. Flavours of sweet Meyer lemon, pear and honeydew on the front palate, this generous wine has no limitations in terms of concentration and complexity. The spectacular finish brings caramel and white pepper to a spectacular bottle of Chardonnay.

 

Food pairing: filet of halibut, shrimp paella

Drink between 2023 and 2028

Winery price: $47.99

 

 

2019 Westcott “Block 76” Chardonnay

Wine Club Member Exclusive

 

Ontario, Niagara, VQA Vinemount Ridge

100% Chardonnay | Dry Wine (RS 3.9 g/ltr)

91pts Carl’s Wine Club

 

This is the purest and the most authentic Chardonnay of Westcott’s portfolio. This single block, single clone Chardonnay is fermented in neutral oak and aged for 16 months, providing good texture but also tension and laser-focused acidity.

The palate offers flavours of bright lemon, green apple, and a slight touch of melon before turning towards white flowers, white peach tea, and a drop of ginger. I recommend cellaring this wine for another 2 years. Only 70 cases produced.

 

Food pairing: salmon tartar, tuna steak

Drink between 2023 and 2027

Winery price: $44.99

 

 

 

Cheers,

 

Carl

 

You can learn more & order this exclusive Westcott wine pack in Carl’s Cellar: https://www.carlscellar.com/westcott

 

 

 

 

 

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