Family History Runs Deep at Henry of Pelham - Niagara Wineries

By Contributor

Chris is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Staying Native.  He enjoys riding his bike (pedal kind) and relishes opportunities to share cycling adventures with friends.  On top of that, Chris is generally up for any adventure that provides him with stories to share.  He looks forward to sharing some of those adventures with his sons as they get a little older.

Sunday, Jun 16, 2013

The art of premium wine making in the Niagara region began in the mid 1980’s. The vineyards are young by the standards of historic wine regions, such as Bordeaux and Champagne.

In stark contrast, the history of the Speck family in the area extends all the way back to the late 1770's when Nicholas Smith, an United Empire Loyalist and direct relative, settled in Pelham township. Smith and his wife had 14 children, 7 boys and 7 girls. Upon his death in 1843, he left his land to his sons. The parcel of land given to his son Henry are the same lands on which Henry of Pelham operates today.

  Niagara_Wine_Country_Henry_of_Pelham_historic_loyalist_cemetary.jpgHistoric loyalist cemetery on the grounds of Henry of Pelham

Barrel Cellar Tasting at Henry of Pelham

The barrel cellar tasting experience is intimate. We were hosted by Matthew Speck, the middle brother of the trio that own the winery.  Henry of Pelham started as the Niagara region was beginning its transformation from producing  juice grapes to premium wine varietals.  The winery is beautiful and the wines were excellent. The overall experience  is one that I highly recommend.

Niagara_Ontario_Wine_Country_Tasting_room.jpgBarrel cellar Tasting room at Henry of pelham

Above and Beyond the Basics

Every wine tour will cover the basics, but what really makes a tour enjoyable is the host. There were many tidbits of knowledge I gained during my visit.  Among them were:

  • Almost all sparkling wines around the world are initially bottled with metal bottle caps (crown capped), even in Champagne!  Caps are more cost effective and better suited to hold the pressure than a cork. In fact in order to use a cork instead of a cap, the quality of the cork needs to be so high that it can cost more than the bottle itself.  This decision becomes an economic decision depending on the price point of the wine.

  Henry_of_Pelham_Sparkling_Wine_pressure_gauges.jpgPressure Gauges on the Sparkling Wine
  • Riddling is the process of removing the sediment from a sparkling wine.  It involves freezing the neck and then letting the pressure shoot out the ice along with any sediment that has accumulated.

   Niagara_Wine_Country_Henry_of_Pelham_Sparkling_Wine_closeup.jpg                      Sediment in the Sparkling wine before Riddling 

  • Henry of Pelham choses to buy about ½ their grapes from other local growers.  This is an intentional strategy to hedge against any seasonal issues that may affect the area in which the vineyard is located.  Different wineries have different views on this which in itself is interesting point for discussion.

  • The unique environment created by Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment is very sensitive.  Accordingly, the wineries keep a close eye on temperature and even have propellers situated in fields to pull warm air down to vine level, when necessary.

Nouveau Wine CountryNiagara_Ontario_Wine_Henry_of_Pelham_Cellar_slice.jpg

In the Cellars  at Henry of pelhamWhat the Niagara Wine country lacks in history, it more than makes up for in great wine and passionate, engaging producers. If you are visiting the region,  I highly recommend a visit to Henry of Pelham, both for the wines and the experience. I expect you’ll probably leave with a bottle or two as well!

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