Revisting the Niagara Wine region, Canada, part
Flat Rock dates back to the late 1990s, and the vineyard was planted
in 2001/2 with mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. It's
owned by Ed Madronich Sr, and run by his son, Ed Madronich. The
junior Ed gained experience by working for several years in charge
of sales and marketing at Inniskillin.
When I visited, they were going through a difficult period of
replanting after significant winter damage over a two year period.
There are 69 acres of vines here, and 24 acres were in the process
of being replanted. The previous winter, temperatures had dipped to
-25 C for five hours or so, which is enough to kill the more
sensitive vinifera varieties.
I visited with winemaker Jay Johnston (above) and Jennifer
Hart (sales and marketing manager), who both joined in 2012.
[Note added later: Jay is now winemaker at Hidden Bench.]
Here, we are on 20 Mile Bench, with a clay loam soil over a
limestone bed. The limestone is fractured, and it's as close to the
surface as a metre in some places.
Vintage is around 150-200 tons, with about 90% estate fruit (some
Riesling, a house speciality here, is brought in).
Disease pressure is high. Copper is used a lot and they need to make
14 sprays a season against diseases because of the humidity in the
warm growing season. Sour rot, powdery mildew and black rot are real
Flat Rock is a corkless company. Everything is screwcapped, except
for the sparkling Riesling, which has a crown cap.
'One thing I tried to bring to the project is looking for more
diversity in the cellar,' says Jay. 'I've been playing with wild
ferments, yeasts, stems, cap management. The idea is to create a
range of components so we could choose the bits for the different
With this strong line-up, Flat Rock is one of Niagara's very best
Flat Rock Cellars Estate Pinot Noir 2013 20 Mile Bench,
Fresh, pure and a bit sappy with nice
silky cherry fruit. Supple, with real purity and a bit of sappiness.
Very pure in an elegant style. 93/100
Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2012 20 Mile Bench,
A selection of 25 barrels. Supple, sappy
and a bit juicy with lovely sweet, textured cherry and berry fruit.
Very fine and lively with a lovely red cherry character and some
nice spiciness. Real finesse here. 94/100
Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2009 20 Mile Bench, Niagara,
A late vintage that most people didn't
pick until October. Sweet and spicy with lovely texture. Silky and
fine with a hint of maltiness and spicy cherry fruit. Made in a ripe
style, this has nice elegance. 93/100
Flat Rock Cellars Gravity
Pinot Noir 2005 20 Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
30% of normal crop
after a hard winter. A warm, humid season. Hints of earth and spice.
Quite mineral. Has lovely spice and mineral dimensions with some
cherry and plum fruit. Mellow and mature, showing finesse. 93/100
Rock Cellars Estate Chardonnay 2012 20 Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Very appealing with textured pear and white peach fruit, as
well as some nuttiness. Smooth with a broad personality. Rounded and
a bit spicy on the finish. 90/100
Flat Rock Cellars Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2012 20 Mile Bench,
Fresh and fine with nice pear, citrus
and white peach fruit. There's a bit of nuttiness, too. Has nice
finesse and precision with some breadth and some spiciness. 92/100
Flat Rock Cellars Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2009 20 Mile Bench,
There's freshness and purity here:
lovely pear, white peach and a bit of citrus fruit. Great precision
with some spice and pear. Amazingly fresh still. 94/100
Flat Rock Cellars Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2007 20 Mile Bench,
Very sweet and rich with grilled bread,
cream and vanilla notes as well as some citrus freshness. Exotic and
quite powerful, this combines richness and freshness. 92/100
Flat Rock Cellars Estate Riesling 2014 20 Mile Bench,
9.5% alcohol, 34 g/l residual sugar. Off
dry and pure. Nice and linear with slightly melony citrus fruit.
Good focus and purity. 89/100
Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Riesling 2014 20 Mile Bench,
From a 1 hectare parcel. 9.5% alcohol,
24 g/l rs. Very fresh and lively with a hint of tangerine and
grapefruit. Nice liminess on the palate with some sweetness filling
out the texture in the mouth. Very delicate and pure in an off-dry
Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Riesling 2004 20 Mile Bench,
This was the second vintage of this
wine. Powerful and a bit limey. Quite dry with
strong lemony character and a bit of spice, as well as hints
of toast. Lively and weighty with good acidity. 93/100
ONTARIO WINE COUNTRY, CANADA
EDWARD COUNTY, CANADA
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