Beer, Wine & Spirits: River House Vineyard and Winery

River House Vineyard and Winery
River House Vineyard and Winery. Photo credit: Brian Preston.
Posted on: July 20, 2023

Monday was a sunny day and perfect for a country drive with the top down, meandering north to Maberly into the beginnings of the Canadian Shield where rocks, forest and lakes dominate the landscape. You can imagine my surprise when I left the road on a long stone driveway to emerge out of the woods to see an imposing huge modern winery building flanked by fields of grapevines set in a southerly facing exposure to capture all the sunlight necessary to maximize the ripening of the grapes for harvest in this northern clime! The grape vines have to be trimmed back in fall, laid down and covered to protect them from harsh low winter freeze in a time-consuming extra process that vineyards in Niagara Peninsula do not have to experience. The winery and restaurant building is absolutely gorgeous and so well laid out with tasting room, modern washrooms and production facilities. This is the dream project of the Fournier family, all of whom are involved in the business, along with a wine consultant expert from Brock University School of Oenology. John and his wife, along with their daughter Meagan and son Andrew, round out the family team doing everything from viniculture and production, to sales and marketing; maintaining not only a Tasting Room but providing lunch or supper in their restaurant and al fresco café. Check out their website and hours of operation for a complete listing of their wines and menus: They can be reached at 221 Davern Lane, Maberly, 613-273-9463.

On John’s great grandmother’s farm dating back to 1872, they bought the land to create a winery. After selecting and planting the grape varieties best suited to the sandy soil and based on experts’ recommendations, including assistance/advice from Francois and Allison Scheuermann at their winery just south of them in Westport, their first harvest was last year. It takes four years for newly planted vines to come into production. Meagan at the Tasting Bar put out a tray of tasting glasses and I had the Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and then the red, Pinot Noir (in that order of drier to some residual sweetness and body). All of them can be characterized as New World wines as they are lighter in body with fresh, youthful and emerging aromas characteristic of each wine, and all from their 2021 vintage.

The Chardonnay is unoaked and true to the grape which, in this case, is light yellow with aromas and flavours on the palate of green apple and some citrus fruit. As it warmed up, aromas of light vanilla and a touch of melon were present (hallmarks of the chardonnay profile).

The Riesling was elegant on the nose with a wonderful whiff of petrol you get in what I call a quality Riesling. In the glass, it was clear, light yellow with an edge of green, light florals with apple and pear as well as a seam of refreshing citrus with a minerality expected in Riesling. John tasted Riesling from various clone vines all around the Region to get the one that had the flavor profile he wanted. He did this with the Pinot Noir too as he liked the Scheuermann style, which in turn was based on that of Norman Hardie in Prince Edward County. As John said when I tasted this one, there was a ‘happy mistake’- the wine is a still table wine but in the mouth there is a light frizzante sensation which must be the carbon dioxide being trapped in the grape fermentation process. It is not a sparkling wine by any means but it does give a very agreeable mouth-feel sensation that enhances the aromatics that you get in the taste and aromas you experience. The nose was lemon with light petrol and citrus and melon played through the palate. Clean and refreshing finish.

Upon the recommendation of their vine advisor, they planted Gewurztraminer. This one was dry with some residual sweetness you expect in this wine. The aroma profile was quite light, probably because the wine was too cold just taken from the refrigerator, but while I could not detect the hallmark lychee fruit nose or taste profile. I did get aromas of fresh grass and floral notes, along with light yellow tree fruit and similar faint fresh citrus profile which was refreshing on the finish. It is on the right track as vines take hold with deeper roots and more flavours will develop.

The Pinot Noir was a beautiful light ruby red, cranberry-like, with a lovely and delicate aroma of ripe cherry and a hint of wild strawberry. On the palate, clean and refreshing acidity balancing the tannins and a light candy-apple flavor; approaching medium body texture and mouth-feel with integrated tannins finishing on a replay of ripe red fruit. This one was on French oak (medium toast level) for 6 months in a combination of two one-year old barrels and one new barrel, so as not to overpower the delicate range of fruit aromas and flavor profile; nicely done!

They treated me like family and spent the time to take me through their wine portfolio. When I asked what the future held, they told me that they have a big riddling rack of Sparkling Vidal bottles on the go. They are using the Vidal sourced from Scheuermann’s. They also plan to introduce Baco Noir and it is in the barrel now. So do visit and plan to try the new products as they come to retail as well! Not only is it a great outing, but you will receive a friendly welcome and taste some lovely wines.

Column by Brian Preston

The Travelling Sommelier, Portland, ON at

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News