Until today, Canadian wines were kind of mystery of me. I read many things on them but never took the time to taste them. It took a recently family vacation to shake my view about them.
My family vacation consisted on a trip to Toronto for my cousin’s wedding and sightseeing in Niagara Falls and Sandbanks provincial park in Trenton. I also took advantage to visit a handful of selected estates that included Norman Hardie.
I have to admit that I knew very little about Norman Hardie wines. So i dreaded this visit because of the cloud of ambiguity that lay over my head. What I discovered was a very hip winery, with very down to earth staff. Actually, I felt that I was being received with open arms in a big extented family.
Located in the beautiful Prince Edward Country, the winery is 2 hours away from Toronto and 4-5 hours from Montreal. They have a nice tasting bar open during the summer season and they serve some succulent Pizzas. My wife who was my companion for this visit say that she felt in Tuscany at Norman Hardie.
Norman Hardie is originary from South Africa but moved to Toronto as a teen and headed to Dijon, to complete his sommelier certification. Before founding his winery, he did different work gigs including being a sommelier in The Four Seasons.
In his winery, Norman craft wines from selected sites in Niagara and Prince edward County. These special sites consisting of clay an limestone, allow him to make very special wines from cool climate.
Megan, the sommelier at Norman Hardie, says that Norman works with selected vine growers in Niagara. This allow him to have best grapes to make the best wines. From time to time, he also enlist the help of his staff in matters of wine blending. I got the impression from Megan, that their wines are also so succesful because they are made as a unified team.
I also toured the facilities as well. It was a hub of eclectic energy. They used it both to make the wines and serve the customers in the tasting bar and restaurant. Its very happening with customers and wine staff mingling together. The winery is also very family oriented. There is a trampoline that children can use.
Norman Hardie wines:
Pinot Noir 2015 unfiltered. VQA Niagara Peninsula.
(Field blend of different niagara terroirs. Aged 9 months in french oak with natural occuring malolactic fermentation occuring and minimal sulphur at bottling)
Fascinating nose. Full blown red fruit, spices, white and purple flowers. In a crosspoint between new and old world. Sweet fruit with a velvety texture. Satiny tannis with a voloptous finale.
Cabernet Franc 2015 unfiltered. VQA Niagara Peninsula
( 100 % Cabernet Franc fruit destemmed, natural yeast fermentation and aging in 225l barrels)
An inviting nose that brings to mind Cuban black tobacco cigarrillos, licorice, black cofee with an almost smoky meaty aura to it. With aeration in the glass, red and black currants fruits start to appear. On the mouth, very expressive with a beautiful acidity and a ripe soft tannins.
Cabernet Franc sans soufre 2015. VQA Niagara Peninsula
( Unfined and on sulphur added at bottling for this natural cabernet franc)
This wine striked me for its purity of its fruit. Lovely fragance of leafy blackberries with dry meat extract. On the palate, this wine seduces with its alluring earthiness and latino spice feeling. Fantastic acidity and quite digest to drink. Lingering aftertaste.
Riesling 2016 VQA Ontario
( Blend of Niagara nd Prince Edward Country fruit)
Very special nose. Pear, stone orchard white fruit, chalk and orange blossom water. It is an aromatic paradise. Medium to full body. Elegant and very upbeat Very floral than fruity with a nice poetic finale. A hint of hydrocarbure finale.
Calcaire 2016 ( 45% chardonnay, 45% riesling, 10% pinot gris) VQA Ontario
( Less fermentation of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Fruit coming from diverse Ontario sites)
On the nose, pineapple flesh confit with crushed yellow flowers and a peculiar nuance of wet rocks, Elegant, round and mineral driven. Overall a very profund wine.
Chardonnay 2015 sans soufree VQA Niagara Peninsula
( Blend of different mineral terroirs of the niagara escarpment. Stainless steel and large oak barrel aging. Wild yeast fermentation and no fining and filtration)
Subtle toasty oak notes and very floral ( white peonies, jazmin, rosemary, ).Stunning aromatically. Gras Texture with a fresh acidity. Complex notes of smoked fennel and white pepper. Quite an amazing wine.
Normand Hardie Pinot Gris 2016 VQA Prince Edward County
( 100% Prince Edward County grown. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for 8 months in neutral 500L french oak barrels. Full malolactic fermentation completed in the spring and bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal sulphur dose.)
A Pinot Gris more in common with its Friulian cousin rather than Alsace. Citric fruits, white flowers with a delicate pear character Round, polished and very subtle. Very elegant and harmonious.
Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2014 VQA Prince Edward County
( Blend of Chardonnay grape from 5 different sites within 2 km of the winery. Fermentation in stainless steel and large 500 hl large oak barrels. No fining and filtration)
The specialty of the estate. Fantastic nose bringing to mind lemon cream curd, blanched almond and nectarine jam character, Round, very lineal yet full of vitality. On the mouth, more tropical fruit aromas such as coconut and passion fruit. A juxtaposition between old and new world.
Cuvee du Roche 2014 VQA Ontario
(A barrel selection of the most mineral driven sites from both the County and Niagara parcels of the winery. Fermentation using indigenous yeast beginning in stainless steel and finishing in 500L French Oak barrels. Aged 8 months, sulphur free, in barrel before being blended back into stainless. Bottled unfined and unfiltred with minimal sulphur.)
A magnificent example that shows the potential of the terroir of Niagara and Prince Edward County.Outstanding nose of minerals, limestone, white fruits. Super elegant with a firm structure.
After the tasting, just a bit before lunch, it was time for Pizza. It was just the perfect timing as our table was ready as I finished my last wine. It could get quite busy to eat at Norman Hardie. They dont take reservations and you can get a table on a first come first basis. I expected to eat the pizza with great anticipation as i heard that they were quite legendary.
We opted for 3 pizzas: Margherita, Brie with mushrooms and Sausage. Both the Brie and margherita were stunning with the Cabernet Sans Soufre bringing out the earthy notes of the variety. As well, I also enjoyed the sweet flavors of the sausage pizza complemeting the generosity of the Pinot Noir.
So overall, the visit at Norman Hardie beat expectations and proved that Canada can be at par with France in making world class fine wines.
Until next time.