Honsberger, a new star in Niagara, Canada
Honsberger is a relatively new winery in Niagara. It’s a family owned property in Jordan, and the background to this operation was fruit farming. It also has a beautiful barn, and Honsberger owes its existence today as a winery to the fact that it was previously an amazing wedding venue and winter restaurant. Honsberger cornered the local market for weddings, with customers ranging from locals to people from metropolitan Toronto. So why not plant grapes and make wine? It’s a business extension. So they planted a vineyard in 2008.
Initially they grew grapes to sell, and then in 2012 they held some grapes back and started making their own wine. They got some help from Trius chief winemaker Craig MacDonald who rents a house on the property. Now, Kelly Mason, who was previously making wine at Le Clos Jordanne, makes the wines. Kelly also makes her own wines, and is winemaker at Queylus, too. So she must be quite busy at vintage time.
The 50 acre property has 11.5 acres of Cabernet Franc and Riesling, and Honsberger also buy in grapes from two other vineyards – one is Kelly’s and the other is owned by Martin Schuele.
‘I’m a massive believer in doing just what we can do, and doing it well,’ says Kelly. ‘I don’t work for wineries that have nine different varieties.’ What are her favourite varieties? ‘I love Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir,’ she says, ‘and I hope one day to do an amazing sparkling.’
The grapes are hand picked. Although Kelly does use a destemmer, she doesn’t use a crusher for anything, preferring to work with whole berries. The rosé gets hand picked and hand sorted, then whole berry to press, left for a few hours.
Honsberger Brut NV Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
2015 and 2016, traditional method Riesling. Kelly initially wanted to use traditional varieties but the family wanted her to try with Riesling. 3 g/l dosage. Taut and linear with nice precision to the citrussy fruit. Has a bit of pithiness and a nice focus to the fruit. Shows some complexity. 90/100
Honsberger Riesling 2017 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
This has a slightly jellyish edge to the sweet citrus fruit, with some green apple and herb hints. Dry and supple with nice stony hints in the background. 88/100
Honsberger Riesling 2018 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
This is linear and bright with nice citrus and pear fruit, with some crisp apple character. 5 g/l rs works well to round things over. Juicy and linear with some precision. Good texture, too. 90/100
Honsberger Handshake Series Chardonnay Schuele 2017 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Clone 76. Wild ferment, 18 months in French oak, 20% new. This has a bready, creamy edge with pear and peach fruit. There’s also some nice citrus fruit, too, with freshness and lovely texture. Beautiful harmony with some richness but also nice tension. 93/100
Honsberger Cabernet Franc Rosé 2018 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
Kelly say this wine is one of the favourite ones to make, a labour of love. It’s a 14-16 hour day when the rosé comes in because of the attention it needs, and the extremely long press cycle. Pale pink. This has a lovely texture to it: it’s dry and stony and mineral, with some strawberry and cherry fruit, but also a lovely texture. There’s a soft mouthfeel with beautiful delicacy. Brilliant. 92/100
Honsberger Cabernet Franc 2016 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
13% alcohol. Mix of wild and inoculated ferments. This is so supple and well balanced with sweet, quite lush cherry and plum fruit, but the ripe fruit is nicely reined in by freshness. Elegant and balanced with a twist of sour cherry and lovely grainy structure. Very fine. 93/100
Honsberger Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
A selection that spends an extra year in barrel. Concentrated and structured with lovely dense blackberry and black cherry fruit, with good weight in the mouth. It’s ripe but shows restraint with a chalky, gravelly edge. Needs time to develop a bit more: this was only recently bottled. Serious stuff, and it would be great to revisit it in six months. 94/100
Honsberger Cabernet Franc Reserve 2014 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
A cooler vintage that was great for Pinot and Chardonnay. This is supple and refined with a sense of harmony to the red berry fruits. An elegant style with supple, ripe berry fruits and a bit of spicy structure. Very appealing and quite serious. 93/100
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