Lake Erie North Shore’s newest (& smallest) winery, Dancing Swallows Vineyard is micro-winery in Amherstburg, Ontario. Established in 2012 on a century farm near the mouth of the Detroit River on Lake Erie, the farm is been in the family since 1881. We pride ourselves on being ‘a little something different’ – a shipping container bar, a garden style tasting area, small lot production, a passion for creative wine making, and wines that are unique.
Scott Wilkins, owner, winemaker, tractor driver, fixer of broken things, Scott came to the winery industry after a career spanning engineering, marketing, finance, and mathematics. After 30 years in the big city a change was in order, and the home farm was calling. Five years work with a test plot vineyard, and a lot of research, led to the decision to commit to opening the winery.
“Chardonnay is flat out my favourite wine – to paraphrase the Bard, ‘custom cannot stale her infinite variety.’”
Dancing Swallows is located on an interesting area of soil about six (6) kilometers off the moderating influence of Lake Erie, sitting almost exactly on the 42nd North parallel of latitude.
The south end of Essex County is a patchwork quilt of soil types, and our little six (6) acre vineyard includes two (2) of them. The front is on Perth Clay Loam, but the back, including the Chardonnay block, is on “Burford Loam Shallow Phase”, a miniature glacial moraine of brown gravelly loam, over reddish clay loam, over grey stratified sand and gravel, with ‘many cobblestones’. To manage vigour, we went with Riparia rootstock. The Chardonnay is a mix of Clone 76 and 95, which we field blend.
The classic Essex County heat and humidity leads to a lot of hand work to keep the vines in balance, and the mildews under control. The small Chardonnay block helps us get the work done at the right time, but reduces our wine lot size.
In the winery, rather than fight the swings in vintage variation we’ve decided to embrace each harvest as unique, and let nature lead and the wine follow.
In the fall of 2009, we acquired an abandoned Niagara-on-the-Lake farm on seven acres from which we derived our name, On Seven. Our focus is to create memorable, classic Niagara Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.
To fulfill this focus, On Seven remains true to its guiding principles. We steward a pristine calcareous five-acre vineyard in a locale with legacy of producing premium bottlings. We plant vines sourced from Burgundy with a pedigree of creating great wine and allow our vines to thrive and express the distinct character of their inherent genetics within a unique intersection of soil, climate, and human influence.
We employ traditional and scientific certified organic farming practices that enhance the quality of the wine, and are respectful to our team members, the vines, and the ecological balance in Nature. We maintain low grape yields to ensure optimal ripeness and flavours and hand-harvest estate fruit into small crates to preserve integrity.
We allow wild yeast to express the vineyard’s unique sense of place in French oak barrels. We restrain wine production to very exclusive quantities to maintain focus. We release wine only after ample time in barrel and bottle to ensure its elements are harmoniously balanced and work with team members who share our vision and devotion to excellence.
On Seven believes that it’s through the application of these principles that we are able to produce such memorable, classic Niagara Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.
A professional winemaker for the first decade of his career, Gamble, also a recognized international wine taster and educator, became the founding Executive Director of the VQA. The newly established body acted as Canada's ‘Appelation Controlée,’ setting standards for the country's finest wines, but was also responsible for marketing and export. In this capacity, Gamble spearheaded the industry's first push for national and international recognition as a premium wine-producing region.
Returning to winemaking and winery consultation in 2000, Gamble’s firm has provided a broad range of expertise to some of Canada’s most reputed wineries in their start-up phase. He has been lead consultant for Stratus Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, heralded as one of the world’s most oenologically sophisticated wineries and the first to achieve full LEED accreditation; Benjamin Bridge in Nova Scotia, making classic sparklings hailed by many as Canada’s finest; Ravine winery in St. Davids; Lightfoot & Wolfville – Demeter certified and three-time Winery of the Year at the Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards; and, most recently, On Seven, with a focus on high-end Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Gamble and his winemaking wife, Ann Sperling, also co-own and operate Versado, from a high altitude 1920 Malbec planting in Mendoza, and Sperling Vineyards winery in the Okanagan.
In 2019, Gamble was presented with the inaugural ‘Karl Kaiser Winemaker Emeritus Award for Outstanding Services to the Canadian Wine Industry.’ Previously, he was the inaugural recipient of the Tony Aspler Award for contributions to the Ontario wine industry.
Gamble’s love of cool climate Chardonnays relates to balance, invigorating acidities and, in the finest vineyards and vintages, a miraculous ability to transform into something sublime with long years in bottle.
As a single-vineyard wine in Niagara-on-the-Lake, On Seven’s cool climate Chardonnay program is focused on both the characteristics of the vineyard and the approach of the winemaking.
Our vineyard: Our focus to create memorable, classic Niagara Chardonnay starts with our site. The calcareous loam and clay nature of the soil is so named because of the high proportion of calcium carbonate, or lime, as commonly referred. This soil is recognized for how it supports acidity in the wine rooted within. In planting our vineyard, we took specific steps to accentuate this characteristic. We chose S04 as our rootstock, given it thrives in lime-based soil. SO4 produces a larger root mass and starts functioning earlier in the season to help our vines endure extreme weather variations such as cool, wet springs, and droughty summers. SO4 also produces vines of moderate vigour (rather than low vigour) and give us the option to set more fruit early in the season and carry it through warmer vintages. This moderate crop load approach slows ripening of the fruit to achieve the desired balance between sugar and acidity levels.
To support our pursuit for classically styled Chardonnay, we sourced our vines directly from Burgundy and planted clones of Chardonnay (76, 95, 96 and 548) with a history of making great cool climate wines. Our planting on the slight north-facing slope of the land extends fruit ripening and maintains freshness while achieving full physiological maturity. Finally, we employ organic farming practices to allow the grapes to capture the subtleties of our site.
Our winemaking: Our obsession in creating memorable, classic Niagara Chardonnay also influences our winemaking decisions. Our Chardonnays exhibit restrained fruit character while being balanced by savoury and mineral notes. We achieve this classic Chardonnay flavour profile through a minimalist approach. We start with hand harvested organic estate fruit. We let wild yeast guide the fermentation process and express the vineyard’s unique sense of place. We age the wine in predominately neutral French oak barrels to enhance complexity while retaining freshness and focus. Finally, we bottle and release the wine once its individual elements are harmoniously balanced.
Situated on 47 pristine acres in the heart of the Ottawa Valley and only founded in early 2014, KIN Vineyards has established itself as a premium focused winery.
With a truly agrarian sensibility and belief in sustainable viticulture, our pursuit of winegrowing perfection begins with the soil. The most northerly Ontario Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Vineyard, KIN Vineyards’ Carp Ridge Vineyard is bisected by the Hazeldean Fault, showing glacial till over limestone on the upper slope and clay loam over limestone on the lower slope. With a southwest exposure and a gentle slope to the Carp River Valley, the site offers generous amounts of sunshine and well drained soils in combination with low yielding vineyards to deliver wines of great complexity, freshness and distinctiveness.
The team at KIN Vineyards has sourced additional varietals from key, trusted, vineyards located in the Niagara, Ontario region to augment its overall portfolio. In addition to estate grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, KIN also crafts succulent wines from Chardonnay, Vidal, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Marquette, and Marechal Foch varieties. KIN also produces a dry, yet balanced Pinot Noir based Rosé and rounding out its overall portfolio is a Charmat styled Vidal sparkling wine. For the 2019 vintage, KIN is proud to introduce an estate Chardonnay based natural wine.
With a soul deep passion and commitment to exploring some of the world’s most unique terroirs for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Brian has spent the last 20 years working with top producers in Sonoma, California, New Zealand as well as Niagara, Canada before joining KIN Vineyards in Ottawa, Canada. Brian excels in the extreme winegrowing of Ontario’s most northerly plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the unique soils of the Carp Ridge.
What makes us Cool!
The Carp Ridge site, at KIN Vineyards, offers a unique opportunity to explore a distinctive terroir in Ontario’s most northerly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyard. Located atop the Hazeldean Fault, Carp Ridge presents glacial till over limestone on the upper slope and clay loam over limestone on the lower slope. With a southwest exposure and a gentle slope to the Carp River Valley, the site offers generous amounts of sunshine and well drained soils in combination with low yielding vines to deliver wines of great complexity, freshness and distinctiveness. Cool climates provide the ideal conditions for slow, yet complete, ripening over the growing season allowing the winegrower to achieve more complexity and unique character in the wines.
Great wine truly is made in the vineyard and it is an adherence to this philosophy that informs our choice to farm sustainably, including both organic and biodynamic approaches whenever possible. Healthy soils, a biodiversity of flora and fauna creates a vineyard of balance and synergy … and ultimately, wines of substance, integrity, uniqueness of place and longevity. Our winemaking is focused on using experience and skill to achieve balance in the wines rather than to achieve a preconceived ideal.
Three clones of chardonnay are grown over three distinct vineyards blocks and soil types, on the Carp Ridge, to produce low grape and must yields which are indigenously fermented and aged, sur lie, in a combination of French oak cooperage and stainless steel for 10 months prior to blending, minimal fining and filtration before bottling. It is our intention to bring you the purest expression our site … terroir!
One of the furthest great bench vineyards from the lake, some five kilometres from the hustle and bustle of the QEW highway and the Jordan Harbour, the Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard sits quietly on the Jordan Bench, surrounded by its own Clos of Carolinian forest.
The challenge was to proceed to look for THE best plot of land within the Le Clos Jordanne vineyard to make Le Grand Clos. Similar to the Grand Cru tier in Burgundy, we are doing a ‘vineyard-within-a-single vineyard’ approach. After several years of listening to the wines, and walking the vineyards, it became obvious that the western side of Le Clos Jordanne gave the wines of the most striking potential for showing, breeding silkiness, length and longevity. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and long-aged in barrel before bottling, the cuvée is tasted meticulously, barrel-by-barrel, with only the most ‘transparent’ barrels retained … those that support but ‘stay out of the way of the terroir.’
Our mission here is to home in on the ‘filet mignon’ of the Clos Jordanne vineyard. Simply our finest expression of the Jordan bench Terroir.
Thomas Bachelder is an internationally recognized Canadian winemaker - and Le Clos Jordanne’s original founding winemaker - with a specialty in the production of cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. His terroir-revealing wines with distinct, complex minerality helped to propel a young Niagara region into the global spotlight in the mid to late 2000s. His efforts were instrumental in showcasing how old world, Burgundian winemaking techniques employed on new world terroir - with minimal intervention - could produce exceptional wines.
Originally from the dairy farming belt east of Montreal, Quebec, Thomas grew up on his family’s farmland, helping to foster a love of agriculture from a young age. In 1985, Thomas was first introduced to winemaking when he received a “Beaujolais-style” home winemaking kit for Christmas. Originally interested in winemaking as a hobby, it was his honeymoon trip to Burgundy with his wife, Mary Delaney, that inspired him to become a full-time winemaker.
His career began in 1992 when he moved to Burgundy to work as a winemaking assistant for two esteemed Domaines, Domaine de la Créa, Bligny-lès-Beaune and Domaine Marius Delarche, Pernand-Vergelesses. Following this and a stint in Oregon, he was invited back to Burgundy to join the historic Château Génot-Boulanger where he was able to introduce some new world winemaking notions, into one of the old world’s most traditional villages. A move back to Oregon in the late 90’s saw Bachelder create some of the greatest Pinot Noirs in the state during four vintages at Lemelson Vineyards.
In 2003, Bachelder became the founding winemaker of Le Clos Jordanne. Enamored by the Burgundy region, Bachelder had been hesitant about making wine in Ontario, but he quickly fell in love with the unique nature of the project and the limestone-laced, micro-climate of the Jordan Bench. Le Clos Jordanne became a passion project and he viewed it as an incredible opportunity to put Canada on the winemaking map.
Leveraging a decade’s worth of experience obsessing over the marriage of new and old world techniques, Bachelder and Le Clos Jordanne won almost immediate attention and praise. In 2009, the 2005 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay generated global recognition after winning first place in the Judgement of Montreal competition. It was only the second wine he had produced at Le Clos, earning Bachelder Winemaker of the Year in that year’s Ontario Wine Awards.
Bachelder left Le Clos Jordanne in 2010 and continued to produce world-class examples of cool-climate wines in Oregon, Burgundy and Niagara, under his own label, Bachelder. He recently added a new varietal, Gamay, to his portfolio. His technique continues to showcase the personality of the region, with little winemaker intervention and extended time in the barrel. Now, Bachelder will return to execute the rebirth of Le Clos Jordanne, bringing with him his immense knowledge of this particular vineyard, his passion for the region and his unique, terroir-focused style.
On Niagara’s Twenty Mile Bench, you will find a small vineyard called The Farm. It is home to the Neudorf family and sits on 10 acres of some of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in the Niagara region. Focusing on Pinot Noir, and now Chardonnay, The Farm is dedicated to producing minimal intervention, small batch wines of exceptional quality.
Kelly Mason, Winemaker
Born and raised in Montréal, Kelly ‘s love of winemaking began during a vacation in Napa Valley in 2007 that resulted in an internship at Saintsbury Winery under a Burgundian winemaker.
She then studied Winemaking at Brock University before working first at Tawse Winery and then at Le Clos Jordanne, always focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Kelly joined the Domaine Queylus team in the spring of 2013.
“When you get the harvest date just right and take a hands-off winemaking approach, cool climate Chardonnay will express the vineyard site beautifully. It allows Niagara to showcase different Chardonnay profiles based on our appellations – what is sometimes referred to as boring varietal becomes complex and interesting as the terroir differs from one producer to the next.” - Kelly Mason
Our (new) 2017 Unmarked Chardonnay is sourced from different vineyards across Niagara. We work hard to find great terroirs that can be expressed via our minimal intervention approach to winemaking and the Farm’s commitment to an unfiltered, unmarked style.
2017 is the first vintage for our Unmarked Chardonnay. This wild fermented Chardonnay has gone through full malolactic and is unfiltered. A proportion was aged in new Damy oak barrels with the majority of the wine aged in stainless tanks.
This wine is vibrant with a chalky minerality – its wild ferment delivers layered notes of green apple, lemon, stone fruits, and lime zest. The finish is focused and complex.