Frogpondfarm, Niagara peninsula (Ontario)

Water, Earth, Wind as the faces of the triangle

I will conclude this Niagara peninsula excursion with  the wine and the domain which attracted me the most. This meeting with Jens Gemmrich on this sunny afternoon, in a place very close to Niagara falls, certainly worthed the visit. It is the first time I can meet up with the owner of the farm who is also the winemaker and the vinegrower. It is not so common,  as usually here in Canada from what I could see so far, winemaking is more of a hobby so to say,  for rich bankers from Toronto, investors from abroad or businessmen wanting to make wine. Never I’ve been received by the owner except here at frogpondfarm.

Jens Gemmrich from frogpondfarm

I had to call up several times ahead before setting up an appointment with Jens. The email address seems not to work properly and I couldn’t get trough when I wrote them at the first time. Once again , thanks to the Biovino wine tasting at my arrival in Canada more than a month ago, I could find this farm producing the best value wine among all of what I’ve visited.

It is a small wine shop in which we enter at first,  where  relaxing music is played  and friendly atmosphere is perceptible. The farm is only 10 acres and in the middle of it we can see the pond where the name of the farm is coming from.

frogpond farm without a pond and frogs would have been out of place, isn't it ?

At frogpondfarm they farm organically since 1996 and started to make wine in 2001. We can find here also some fruit trees, sheep, guinea fowls, and chickens . This diversity on such a little piece of land brings a lovely atmosphere of cosiness and liveliness. In 2004, they then bought 20 acres of land on an other farm to produce more grapes. It is only in 2007 that they got the organic certification Pro-cert Canada.

Sheep mowing under the fruit trees

Since the beginning of the visit, I’ve been touched by the authenticity of the farm, by Jens the owner, and by the wines. All of them express great character, depth and beauty. Not having a lot of time for our meeting, being  at the pick of the growing  season, Jens will show me around and we’ll have a quick walk around the pond, in the winery, and in the tasting room where they receive their customers.

Human size winery for a humanistic approach to wine

At frogpond farm, they are not using oak barrels at all, and this is the first time I have the privilege to taste some wines without any oak barrel ageing at all. For Jens, there is no coherence when  using oak barrels only for 5 years,  where  it took a single oak tree more than a hundred years to grow and to reach adulthood. This is not a sustainable process for him . « At this pace we’ll soon no longer have oak forest anymore ». The only oak he uses is   vat oaks – much bigger barrel of 2500 liters each – from Germany. If handled properly, they will last more than a hundred years old each. Year after year he uses them and has very good result with them.

Vat oaks in an oval shape

With the tasting,  we find an homogeneity from the beginning to the end. The same rigorousness is done in the winemaking. No fining, indigenous yeast most of the years, respect of the fruit and of the terroir. I find great depth and originality in these wines and it is a real pleasure to see them sold between 12 to 15 $ (9 to 11€) out of  the farm. When tasting these wines we find sapidity, minerality, complexity and character. A very small quantity of sulfur is added to the wine, only between 5 to 20g per liter.

Regularity in the wines

For the little story, one the wine (Chardonnay 2007) has been refused for the agreement by the VQA (Vintner Quality Alliance), the body which gives the appellation to the wines in Canada.

The bad boy !

It is a body of so called expert who are used to taste all the time the same wines. When one wine is a bit different, they will refuse the agreement. It makes me thinks of the huge fight nowdays in France regarding these winemakers who don’t look anymore at the appellation system and sell their wine under the generic name Vin De Table (Table Wine). Nevertheless, they can manage to sell their wine to top restaurants in the world wherever it is in New-York, Tokyo, Paris or London. These wines are often the perfect wines for food pairing and sommeliers in restaurants will serve them as a discovery for the customer under blindtasting conditions most of the times. There is some freshness to be brought to the french appellation system and the late René Renou, the ex-président of INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origines) was one of the few in the heavy french bureaucracy to lead this movement for a more meaningful appellation system.

In Canada, I’m discovering that the farmer is confronted to the same problem. When Jens asked me what did I think about this wine before

Chambourcin, a winter hardy grape variety

telling me anything about it and its refusal before the VQA agreement, I simply answered that this was the wine I’ve had most enjoyed so far. Strange enough, it has been tasted as oxydised by the agreement. In fact, from my pointof view, I don’t even taste the slightest oxydisation in the wine. I find delicate acidity, lenght, complexity, pleasant texture, and a bit of CO2 which brings freshness and drinkability. For 13 $ (10€), you end up with a great wine suitable for gastronomy. Let it breathe for 4 hours before enjoying it not too cold. You’ll notice how Niagara peninsula can produce author wines made from real artists. This wine is a proof to show that Canada has done a step further in the terroir expression. I would recommend to stop by this farm whenever you come to Niagara Peninsula area. Furthermore you’ll discover some grapes such as chambourcin and will be able to taste the purest grape juice I’ve tried made also on the farm. Taste the authenticity, visit frogpondfarm !

Grape juice if not in a mood to drink wine
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Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 8:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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