TasteCamp North, held on both sides of the Niagara river on May 13-15, was a lot of fun and very instructive for the thirty-some wine bloggers and writers present. Pursuing a tradition started by Lenn Thompson for the first two TasteCamps, held in his home turf of New York State, I’ve decided to ask bloggers from outside the region to answer a short series of questions detailing their impressions of the region.
First up is Jonathan Wilson, a Nova Scotia sommelier who writes the Labeled.ca blog, dedicated to “opening bottles and minds”. Jonathan was also one of the artisans of the online Marc Madness that had the twitter wine community ablaze for weeks, earlier this year.
Was this your first visit to Niagara – in Canada and/or the US?
I hadn’t been to the Canadian side in some time. It was my first visit since really becoming serious about wine. My last visit was during a time in which wine was a hobby, this time I viewed the areas through a completely different set of eyes. This was, however, my first trip to the US side. There are a lot of similarities between Niagara Falls, US and Nova Scotia when it comes to finding their identity as a wine region. It was interesting to see.
Had you ever had any Niagara wines before? If so, what was your impression of them?
I try and taste as much Canadian wine as I can. That being said, not nearly enough wine from Niagara makes its way to the other parts of the country, especially here in Nova Scotia. Niagara is one of my favourite regions to drink. The pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling can be mind-blowing. I’m talking on a worldwide scale.
After your visit to Niagara, how much has your impression changed?
I don’t know if my impression has changed, just strengthened. I have always loved the wines of this area, and this trip has only cemented the fact that they are the real deal.
What did you appreciate the most?
I appreciated the fact that although these men and women are making world-class wines, they don’t have the snob factor. These people are Canadian, through and through. As for the people on the US side, they were really nice too. I consider them honourary Canadians. Yes, with a “U”.
What impressed you the least – or what needs improvement the most?
I think that the region needs to learn its identity. If cabernet franc grows better in Niagara-on-the-lake than Beamsville, than so be it. It was meant to be. It seems like every part of Niagara wants to grow all grapes, regardless of which ones thrive. There are very unique microclimates which show distinct terroir. Why not showcase it with the grapes that are showing that they have world class potential? In my opinion, Niagara’s future lies with chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling. The rest are good, don’t get me wrong, but those are a step above. With grape selection, it is always best to go with what grows best, don’t follow consumer trends. If you grow world class cabernet franc and ok cabernet sauvignon, grow the franc. If you grow it, they will come.
What was the most unexpected thing for you, during TasteCamp?
I won’t lie, I was a little hesitant about how well it was going to be organized. This was my first time doing it, and first time meeting everyone in person. I am happy to say that my concerns were not necessary. This was one of, if not THE, best run conferences I have ever been a part of.
What would your wine of the weekend be?
On the red side, the ‘09 Lailey Pinot Noir was utterly fantastic. For whites, Thirty Bench Triangle Riesling. Best riesling in Canada, in my eyes. Oh, and I seem to recall a pretty good ‘89 Moulin Touchais that someone brought to dinner on Saturday
(Note: Thanks, Jonathan, glad you enjoyed the Touchais – and thank your for bringing some of that awesome Nova Scotia bubbly)