In Niagara (9) Lailey Winery and Stonebridge


Lailey is one of the important wineries in Niagara’s recent history, but it has been through some recent difficulties. But now it is on the way back, and is under the same ownership as Stonebridge. The two are now operating as sister wineries.

Lailey Winery was founded by Donna and David Lailey in 1970, which is ancient history for vinifera-based projects in Niagara. Through the 1970s they planted their vineyard, which is in a long strip around a kilometre long on the Niagara River. Initially they sold the grapes, but then hired winemaker Derek Barnett and began making wines under their own label in 2000. With 17 varieties planted in 42 blocks, they made a wide range of wines and developed a loyal following.

Sauvignon Blanc planted two years ago

But it sold in 2015, and Derek left to set up his own winery, Meldville. The new owners John Chang and his wife Allison Lu, bought it with a very different idea about what they wanted to do with this property. They focused on ice wine sales for export (mainly China) and tourists. This was something they’d done with some success with their BC winery, Lulu Island winery. But this business stopped with Covid. An added complication was that John had been arrested and jailed in China for undervaluing the value of wine imports to avoid duty payments. He was released in 2021 and decided to sell Lailey.

Faik Turkman (owner) and Ann Sperling (consultant winemaker)

Current owner Faik Turkmen bought the winery in 2021 when it came onto the market. He’d already established a premium Niagara winery called Stonebridge, but Lailey offered something different: a physical winery, and in particular, the ability to sell directly to customers from the cellar door. Consultant winemaking couple Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling have been involved from day 1, as they were already working with Turkmen with Stonebridge. Faik speaks highly of Peter’s ability. ‘He can taste grapes early on and imagine what is going to be bottled,’ says Faik. ‘He calls the picks.’

Plan of the newly planted vineyard

When they took over in October 2021 they did an emergency pick of what was growing, to see what they could make of it. And then they made plans: although there were some lovely old vines here, the condition of the vineyard overall meant that a replant was needed, and so over 2022 and 2023 a full replant took place, with fewer varieties. The first crop will be a little in 2024, and then from 2025 onwards the vineyard will gradually reach full production. So it will be a while before we see the Lailey wines again.

Ann explains about the viticulture. She has a lot of experience of organic farming, and that’s the way they are running things here. But they still need to spray against mealy bug to prevent the spread of leafroll virus. The neighbouring vineyards have some of this and they can’t risk it spreading to their vines.



So with no Lailey wines to taste, we focused on the wines of Stonebridge.

In 2016 Faik bought an old orchard in Niagara on the Lake which had 16 acres of Chardonnay vines on it, and began planting more vines. First vintage was 2017, and we got to try it here.

Chardonnay is an important focus here, and they have been particularly successful in competitons. There’s a 100-300 case production for each wine. They are barrel fermented, with 30-35% new oak for each wine, with the exception of 2020 which was all second use.

Stonebridge Chardonnay Select Reserve 2021 Four Mile Creek
13% alcohol. 21 months in French oak. A blend of clones. Taut and linear with great concentration and high acidity. Some mealy, spicy notes with a lovely acid line supporting the rich pear and peach fruit, but there’s a brisk citrus character kicking in on the finish and keeping it fresh. A wine with a wide dynamic range that’s lively and intense. Lots of potential here. 95/100

Stonebridge Chardonnay Reserve East 2020 Four Mile Creek
13.5% alcohol. Clone 76, 22 months in French oak. Lovely mealy, toasty aromatics with some white peach and melon. Complex and sophisticated. The palate is lively and intense with a creamy, mealy, slightly toasty edge to the fruit. Generous and rich with some oak evident, even though there is no new oak here. Lovely wine. 94/100

Stonebridge Chardonnay Reserve East 2019 Four Mile Creek
13.8% alcohol. 22 months in French oak (50% new, but these were puncheon). Wonderfully toasty and mealy on the nose with ripe peach and apple notes. Powerful palate with nice acidity under the generous peachy fruit, with a nice dynamic range, and some apple pie and brioche character, as well as a twist of sourness on the finish. Real intensity here. 94/100

Stonebridge Chardonnay Reserve West 2019 Four Mile Creek
13.8% alcohol. Clone 95. Intense and powerful with peach, pear and apple fruit, as well as some fine spicy notes, and a touch of nuttiness. The palate is vivid and intense with ripe apple and pear, as well as keen acidity. Has a broad range of flavour with good acidity, finishing slightly sour. It’s perhaps a little less intense than the East. 93/100

Stonebridge Chardonnay Reserve 2017 Four Mile Creek
13.6% alcohol. Clone 95. This is the first wine, from a challenging vintage. Took 14 months to complete fermentation. Really exotic, mineral nose with spice, crystalline citrus fruit and some flinty tension. The palate has some toast and spice with mineral intensity, and powerful lime, peach, spice and a touch of apple. Very intense with a long future ahead of it, showing a bit of development but also incisive acidity and focus. 95/100

Stonebridge Traditional Method Blanc de Blanc 2020 Four Mile Creek
12.5% alcohol. Zero dosage, first batch with 23 months on lees. Fresh and bright with crisp citrus fruit driving things. Has keen acidity and nice intensity with a bit of crystalline dried citrus fruit adding complexity, and a faint toasty hint. Lovely depth, focus and intensity here. Tapering finish. 93/100

Stonebridge Merlot Reserve 2020 Four Mile Creek
14.5% alcohol, 22 months in French oak, 50% in new puncheons. Beautiful aromatics with a subtle oak spice combining with floral black fruits. The palate is refined with some spiciness and a touch of sour cherry on the finish. Sweet rounded black fruits on the palate. Mellow and exotic. 93/100

Stonebridge Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2020 Creek Shores
14.9% alcohol, 22 months in French oak. Luxurious nose of sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Rich, mellow, smooth blackcurrant fruit palate with depth and sweetness to the fruit, finishing with slightly grainy but refined. Has a bright blackcurrant note on the finish. 93/100

Stonebridge Cabernet Franc Reserve 2020 Creek Shores
14.6% alcohol, 22 months in French oak. Sweetly fruited and showing some nice evolution, this is mellow and harmonious with a core of blackcurrant and cherry fruit. There’s some nice tannin sitting comfortably with the ripe fruit, and it shows a mellow ease to the palate. 93/100

Stonebridge Cabernet Franc Reserve 2019 Four Mile Creek
13.7% alcohol. 2019 was a good year for whites but not so much for reds. 19 months I French oak. Supple, fresh, sweet blackcurrant and red cherry nose. The palate has bright berry fruits with a hint of green. Has a herbal quality and even a touch of hop. Good drinkability. 92/100

Stonebridge Cabernet Franc Reserve 2018 Four Mile Creek
13.9% alcohol. 31 months in French oak. Some browning around the rim indicating a bit of development. Mellow and rounded with sweet cherries and berries with a bit of grip on the finish. Sleek and polished with some softening of the tannins. Brings together the sweet and savoury with good effect. 90/100

Stonebridge Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2020 Four Mile Creek
14.8% alcohol, 18 months in French oak. This was bought from a neighbour who’d abandoned the vineyard. The owner said they could pick what they want, and they picked berry by berry. They got 2376 kg, and Peter was very excited by the fruit, and thought it would be similar to an Alsace VT. This is their best selling wine above $75. It’s rich, fresh and just off dry (22 g/l residual sugar) with bold flavours of pear, peach and apricot. There’s some good acidity countering the sweetness, and a touch of structure. Nice intensity, finishing with a twist of marmalade. Very stylish. 94/100