Brian Hamilton is a graduate of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, and was previously a winemaker at Malivoire, Southbrook Vineyard and Tawse Winery, all in Niagara Peninsula, and he brings the same focus on organic and biodynamic winemaking practices to KIN Vineyards west of Ottawa. Brian worked at wineries in California and New Zealand where he further developed experience and expertise in the creation of cool-climate wines. I attended the grand opening in 2017 and with a recent re-tasting I can say that the wines are very good, ranging from entry level at $25 to their next level at $38.
2019 KIN Vineyards Chardonnay based on VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, 13.2% abv, was a dry, aged on lees version that had a pale golden colour with a nose of fresh apple and a touch of melon that, while light, had some body due to the fermentation process of stirring (battonage) leaving the dead yeast cells mixed with it (on the lees) in oak barrels which added another dimension of flavour and body to the wine. This wine is sourced from Beamsville Bench using Niagara Peninsula grapes, but it was made by the KIN winemaker, Brian Hamilton. It is not uncommon for a new vineyard to source grapes from elsewhere when the local vines are quite young and not yet producing the volume needed for full commercial operation. Many Prince Edward County vineyards started this way and some still use Niagara grown grapes. The grapes were hand harvested, then whole cluster pressed to release only the highest quality juice, which was cool settled and racked to French oak, Burgundy format barrels (20% new) for cultured yeast fermentation and lees aging. Total elevate of nine months with periodic battonage and gentle bentonite fining and minimal filtration prior to bottling. Tasting Notes: Medium lemon in colour, this wine presents a nose of citrus, almond and subtle toast notes. The palate is full and rich yet fresh and cleansing with a long finish. My overall favourite.
2020 KIN Vineyards Carp Ridge Pinot Noir, 11.5%abv, $38. This wine has a pale garnet colour and is made from hand-selected grapes fermented and aged in French oak barrels. The nose presented a perfumed complexity of red currant, earth, and spice nuances of cinnamon and star anise. The palate was midweight with an elegant presentation of bright red currant and spice notes and fruit acidity on the palate, with elegant soft tannins and oak framed by a dusty yet soft tannin structure that led to a medium long, fresh finish.
The 6 acre Kinburn Block includes hardy French hybrid varieties Marechal Foch, Frontenac, and Vidal Blanc, and on 10 acres of the Carp vineyard, where the winery is located, they harvested for the first time their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in 2016. The grape varietals have truly taken hold and now they are in their seventh harvest. In this part of the Ottawa Valley, like Prince Edward County, they have to bury the canes for the winter, and then set them up in Spring again.
Kin Vineyards Civil Grit Marquette VQA, 12.5%abv, $25. The Marquette grapes for this wine were hand-picked from an organic vineyard; bright garnet in colour showing aroma and flavours of black raspberry and blueberry with subtle earth and cinnamon tones. The palate was lively and bright, with jammy fruit on the finish.
These and their other wines are available at various LCBO stores. Check out the website at https://kinvineyards.com/
The wines were delightful and while everyone’s palate is different, I particularly was impressed with the Chardonnay. This makes for a great day trip from Westport, Portland and Smiths Falls. For me, the tour is not to drive straight there and back, but rather to explore Eastern Ontario on the way. I guess you could say that the journey and the destination are equally important. That is why I went by way of Pakenham to see the historic five-arch Pakenham Bridge that spans the Mississippi river. It is the only one of its type in North America and it was built in 1901 by O’Toole & Keating, Scottish masons from Ottawa, at a cost of $14,500, before Henry Ford had cars on the road! With a parking lot and rapids right at the bridge, it is a popular picnic spot. Well I arrived home in good spirits and made sure that my wine sampling and driving was within legal limits!
If you have any comments or suggestions for new places to feature, please get in touch with me. As a double-certified Sommelier for over 20 years, I cover beer, wines and spirits of all types, and I like to convene tastings with foods to match in a fun and sociable setting.