Wine is What You Make It

Truth can often be summed up in a few words.

I wish I had the ability to do that. For me, the more words I can have at my disposal, the better. So when I came across the quote in my title, it really resonated with me. Not just as a wine lover, though….isn’t everything in life “what we make it”? I promise I won’t get too philosophical here. I’m keeping this post about wine today.

I would add a bit more to the title though. If wine is what we make it, let’s be grateful for those talented folks who make it in the first place – one of whom is Serge Papineau, the original author of the quote.

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Serge is the Chief Winemaker at Legends Estates Winery. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to visit with him for a tour and tasting. I hadn’t been to Legends Estates in quite awhile, and was happy to have an opportunity to chat with the winemaker himself.

When Ken and I arrived, Serge gave us an explanation of the wines they produce, and told us a bit about his approach to winemaking. Good wines begin in the vineyard, and when good grapes combine with the skill of the winemaker, magic can happen. His passion for pursuing that magic is evident when you speak to him. He has also had a ton of experience, being part of the wine industry in Niagara for seventeen years.

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There were several wines that I was curious to try that day, so we decided to get to tasting. Serge heard that I’m a big Chardonnay lover, so that’s what we started our afternoon with. Legends’ 2013 Chardonnay Reserve recently won Platinum at the 2016 National Wine Awards of Canada. 

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Fellow Chardonnay fans, get yourself some of this. Like, right now. Also, for those of you who forgo Chardonnay because of oak, fear not. This is not an overly oaky Chard – but has just enough of a hint of it to keep those who like it happy. The art is in the balance, and Serge has accomplished this beautifully.

My news gets even better though. This gorgeous wine sells for $18.95. You read that right.

Like I said. Go get some now.

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With delicious Chardonnay in hand, we decided to head into the production area.

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This has got to be one of my favourite parts when visiting a winery. There’s always a sense of anticipation as I follow the winemaker to that special spot where all the behind-the-scenes action happens. It makes me feel like I’m walking through the wardrobe to Narnia. Wine-making Narnia, that is.

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There’s always a particular aroma in the production area too – the sweet fragrance of fermenting grapes. The scent was even better that day, as there were vats of grapes waiting to be punched down.

Look at these gorgeous, fermenting, gooey beauties.

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Serge asked if I could give him a hand with punching them down. I said sure, vats of grapes can’t be that heavy. My trainer has recently ramped up my program, so I thought it would be NBD to haul some grapes around.

Serge just smiled.

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Man, was I wrong. It’s heavier than you think.

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I’ll tell Kim, my trainer, that I’ve found a new core exercise. I’ll call them “Grape rotations”, and their benefit is that they particularly work the oblique abdominal muscles. Of course, this exercise must be followed with wine sampling. I don’t think she’d approve of the wine sampling part –  unless it’s for my cheat meal.

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Serge and I decided that “Grape Rotations” should definitely be followed by wine tasting, even if Kim wouldn’t agree. So we proceeded to do more Chardonnay sampling, right out of the barrel. I even got to use the barrel-sampling-thingy for the first time.

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Serge volunteered to get the samples from the hard-to-reach barrels.

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Though I do love my Chardonnay, there were other wines I wanted to try. So we left my wine production Narnia, and went back to the tasting room.

The tasting room is unassuming, providing a very relaxed, casual atmosphere. But with so many interesting wines to sample, that was all I was thinking about.

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We started with a couple of wines from their Terroir series. The 2015 Terroir Rosé is a great summer sipper that is awfully easy on the budget at only $12.95. Another wine I could envision for patio season is their 2013 Terroir Semillon – very fruity with a nice touch of acidity. I was pleasantly surprised with this. Semillon is not a grape I usually turn to. Youthful experiences with Australian Semillon had clouded my judgement, so I wasn’t too sure if I even wanted to try it. I’m glad I did, as surprisingly, I liked it. It’s quite unique to find Semillon as a single varietal here in Niagara. Like all of the wines in their Terroir series, it’s also easy on the budget too, at $14.95 a bottle.

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After the Semillon success, I was feeling adventurous. Serge suggested the 2015 Reserve Pinot Gris, something I also don’t drink much of. It was fresh and fruity, quite lip-smacking. And just look at the vibrant colour!

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Next, we moved on to tasting their Reserve reds. I was especially looking forward to this. All of the wines I sampled are from the 2012 vintage, which is music to Niagara wine-loving ears.  I was intrigued that in addition to my cherished red varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, they also have Malbec, Shiraz, and Petit Verdot.

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I enjoyed all of the ones I tasted, but my particular favourite was the 2012 Merlot Reserve. It’s luscious, full-bodied and smooth – everything I love in a good Merlot. I love it even more because it is only $21.95. This is an absolute bargain for this wine.

Actually, all of the 2012 Reserves are reasonably priced from $21.95-$23.95, which is astounding. Great value for wine from a spectacular vintage year.

I purchased a nice cross-section for at-home sipping.

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As we left, the sun was setting in the vineyard, so we had to take in its exquisiteness.

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Legends Estates is literally steps from Lake Ontario, and the pretty vineyard leads directly to the lake. No wonder it’s a popular wedding location.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. A relaxed atmosphere, pretty view of Lake Ontario, and tasty wine at a terrific price point. What’s not to like?

A special thank you to Serge for sharing his passion for wine with us that day. And of course, an extra thank you goes out to him for making some really lovely wines.

To plan your own visit, you can learn more about Legends Estates here.