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Kelly Mason had an epiphany during a trip to Napa Valley, Calif., in 2007. “I’d always enjoyed wine but never considered making it, until suddenly it was so clear: I had to make wine.” So she quit her career, went back to school and eventually, in 2013, joined Domaine Queylus — a Niagara newcomer with a focus on what Mason calls “undeniably the best varietals in Ontario.”
The Wines: Striving for Balance and Purity
“A wine should express the land where it’s made and be perfectly balanced from nose to finish,” says Mason. Eschewing what she calls the “heavy-handed use of oak,” Queylus’s wines offer “pure expressions” of the grape. The Chardonnay is a great example. Aged in Burgundian barrels, it fuses fresh citrus and juicy minerality with just a kiss of oak. “People think they don’t like Chardonnay until they try our leaner style,” says Mason. The winery’s Cabernet Franc is equally approachable, blending the fruit’s spiced rusticity with a touch of jammy Merlot. “When you taste it, you’re tasting Ontario.”
Pinot Noir is the most difficult grape to work with, and I often think there’s got to be an easier varietal. And then I taste it — layered with fruit, complex spice and earthy notes, it’s elegance in a bottle. The pain is forgotten, the challenge to repeat accepted. Plus, it goes so well with turkey!
The Winery: Wild Wines
Domaine Queylus’s chief winemaker, Thomas Bachelder, levelled a former fruit orchard straddling Niagara’s Lincoln Lakeshore and Twenty Mile Bench appellations in 2006 and began planting the winery’s 30-acre vineyard. The focus: a few select varietals, all of which are especially hardy and sustainable in the region. And the approach? Queylus makes wine the slow way, picking and sorting the grapes by hand and shunning pesticides. “We basically destem the grapes and let the wine ferment wildly on its own,” says Mason, who, like Bachelder, strives to make pure expressions of each varietal with as little intervention as possible. The result, she says, is a pure expression of the grape as it’s grown right here. “You can taste the terroir.”
How to Enjoy
“Cabernet Franc is my go-to wine with anything meaty,” says Mason. With the Chardonnay, she recommends lighter fare, such as puff pastry, soft cheeses and charcuterie. “It makes a great welcoming wine to start the evening.”
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