In Niagara, Canada (12) Southbrook Vineyards


The Redelmeier family have been farmers in Ontario since the 1940s. Current proprietor Bill Redelmeier proved to be entrepreneurial, and in the 1980s developed a roadside farm stall into a thriving farmer’s market and event space, which he named Southbrook Farms. In 1991 he took advantage of the growing interest in Niagara wine, and buying in grapes he built a small winery on site and made his first 2000 cases with the help of winemaker Derek Barnett. The winery began to grow.

Bill Redelmeier

It was in 2005 when Southbrook Farms became Southbrook Winery. His consulting winemaker Ann Sperling alerted him to an opportunity. A vineyard in Four Mile Creek (74 acres of land with 36 acres under vine) had been planted in 2003/4 by someone from an investment banking background. They thought it would be a great place to raise their family, and did a crash winemaking course at CCOV, and then did a business plan. This is when they realized that if they entered the wine game, their lifestyle would have to change. So they sold. Bill bought it. His wine cultural background is a European one, even though he’s Canadian. He decided to commit to biodynamic farming as a a good way of growing the kinds of wines the was interested in.

The Four Mile Creek sub-appellation is one of the warmest in the Niagara peninsula, and so it can do both Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties on the same site. This original Southbrook vineyard is sizeable, with 74 acres, of which 65 are now planted to vines. There’s also a second site (purchased in 2008), with another 75 acres, of which 15 are set aside for conservation. In addition, Southbrook have started to work with small family operated farms with an interest in organics.

With Covid Southbrook changed their business model from selling wines to the LCBO to selling direct to consumers. Previously they sold 50% to the LCBO, now just 10%. They sell more to the SAQ now. It’s meant that they are free to make more small-batch, more interesting wines.

Winemaker Casey Hogan

Bill has done 175 000 km since Covid delivering wines to customers. ‘It’s about building relationships directly with customers,’ he says, ‘supporting local organic growers. When we got our [organic] certificate in 2008 we were the third [in Niagara].’

When they bought the property in 2005 it was with the intention of organic and biodynamic farming. ‘Biodynamics plainly makes better wine,’ he says. ‘We are trying to get other growers to convert so we commit to buying 50% the first four years after certification, and so far we have bought almost all we are offered.’

Bill says he’s still convinced that Chardonnay is the best variety Niagara does.

What about Niagara Pinot Noir? ‘One of the issues is that a lot of people think that Pinot is California. We are never going to make California Pinot.’

One thing that Southbrook have championed is skin-fermented/orange wines. Niagara introduced an ‘appellation’ for these wines a few years ago, and it has helped encourage the category. ‘The rules came out in July 2017,’ says Bill. ‘You have to preregister your intention by November 15 [to make the wine]. Skin fermented wines need a minimum 10 days on skins. You have to put skin fermented white on the label.’

They are currently in the process of replanting most of the original vineyard because of leafroll and red blotch virus.

Casey Hogan has been making the wines here since 2019. He’d previously worked here in 2013, and then moved over to BC where he worked for Cedar Creek. Since he arrived, there has been a gradual transition as long-term winemaker Ann Sperling has stepped back. Casey is Chief Winemaker since 2022. We tried a few wines from barrel, including the impressive 2021 Laundry Vineyard Chardonnay, and the excellent 2021 Laundry Vineyard Gamay. In the 2022 vintage, Casey says that there were no reds from the property because of the difficult winter. He adds that a lot of people have been pulling Merlot out because it suffered so much from the cold.


Southbrook Whimsy Riesling Laundry Vineyard 2020 Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, Canada
11.9% alcohol. On a slope on Vinemount Ridge. Limey and intense with lovely texture: this is broad and intense, with a soft texture as well as good acidity. There’s 30 g/l sugar which adds lovely balance and texture. Very fine and expressive. 93/100

Southbrook Chardonnay Laundry Vineyard 2020 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
12.7% alcohol. Heather Laundry is the grower. Creamy and textural with nice volume in the mouth, but also fresh lemon and peach fruit. There’s some depth here but also nice balance and weight. There’s some mealy detail here and the oak (20% new) integrates really well. 91/100

Southbrook Skin Fermented White Orange Wine 2020 Orange Wine VQA Ontario, Canada
11.3% alcohol. NAS. Soutbrook started making orange wines on an experimental basis in 2012 and then commercially in 2014. Initially they started with Vidal. This is Chardonnay Musque (50% from Heather) and 50% Vidal. 50% whole cluster. It’s bottled with its lees. Cloudy yellow. Lovely aromatics with orange peel, passionfruit and lime. The palate is vital, fresh and grippy with a nice juiciness and some citrus peel character. It’s really lively and grippy with nice structure. Such a beautiful orange wine. 93/100

Southbrook Small Lot Natural Wine Organic and Biodynamic Vidal Skin Fermented White 2020 Orange Wine, Ontario, Canada
Foottrodden, 100% whole cluster, estate wine. No added sulfites. Vital, pure and grippy with nice spicy detail. It’s beautifully expressive with lime, pear and some nice acidity. Very expressive and finishes with some firm tannin and good acidity. Vivid and grippy. 92/100

Southbrook Laundry Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Softly textured and smooth with red cherries and plums. Such a smooth mouthfeel. Some development here with some malt and earth notes in the background. Supple. 90/100

Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Merlot 2019 Four Mile Creek Niagara, Canada
This is grainy and structured with a grippy edge to the sweet cherry and plum fruit. There’s a bit of earthiness here and it finishes dry. There’s some nice flesh on the mid-palate. Lovely fruit. 90/100

Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Four Mile Creek Niagara, Canada
Nicely structured, grainy and spicy with good acidity and mellow blackcurrant fruit with a touch of plum. Good structure here with a slight saltiness on the finish. 91/100

Southbrook Poetica 2019 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
14% alcohol. 65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Estate Fruit. Complex and spicy with bold blackcurrant fruit and some spicy, grainy detail. There’s a lot of structure, and some sweet juicy fruit. Very stylish. 93/100

Southbrook Poetica 2012 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
13.1% alcohol. 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet, 2% Merlot. Supple, concentrated and elegant with nice black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Nice texture with a chalky, grainy character and some smoothness. At a lovely part of its development. Such a lovely wine. 94/100

Southbrook Bertrange Cabernet Franc 2013 Niagara, Canada
Earthy, with some iodine and spice notes. Mellow with sweet fruit and a touch of caramel. Developed and quite elegant. 88/100

Southbrook Vosges Cabernet Franc 2013 Niagara, Canada
Fresh and vivid with subtle earthy notes and some structure to the juicy berry fruits. Quite firmly structured. Nicely developed. 90/100