During our spring break trip to Niagara Falls — on the Canadian side — we ventured up the picturesque Niagara Parkway into Niagara wine country and paid a visit to Lailey Vineyard. Lailey is located just outside of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the Niagara River VQA. “VQA” stands for Vintners Quality Alliance, which is Canada’s unique appellation system for designating the geographic origin of Canadian wine. There are VQA regional and sub-appellations within Ontario in eastern Canada, and within British Columbia in western Canada. The Niagara River VQA, which straddles the Niagara River as it flows north toward Lake Ontario, is a cool-climate growing region characterized by gentle, east-facing slopes; air convection currents that draw cold air away from the vineyards into the river gorge, moderating temperatures and prolonging the growing season; and a wide variety of soil types over ancient bedrock.
Lailey Vineyard, with 25 acres under vine on the estate, is little more than a stone’s throw from the Niagara River and enjoys its fair share of soils — from loamy sand to gravel to clay. This gives the winemaking team — led by longtime winemaker Derek Barnett — some flexibility in choosing where to plant vitis vinifera varieties and a French-American hybrid variety (Vidal, used in making sweet late harvest and Icewine) to optimize quality and expression of the fruit. Selecting just the right vineyard parcel for each given variety is a priority at Lailey. We tasted through Lailey’s portfolio of current release table wines with Derek and Sommelier Ed Haddon, and the careful attention they devote to the vineyard as well as the winemaking was apparent in every glass. We enjoyed all of Lailey’s selections — they are well-crafted and indicative of their surroundings — and offer our tasting notes on two of our favorites — both red blends — below.
This is Lailey’s fourth vintage of “Impromptu,” a blend of Syrah (84%), Malbec (11%), and Petit Verdot (5%). It is a vivid red, with aromas that suggest ripe blackberry, violet, and incense; followed by flavors that convey raspberry preserve, cinnamon stick, and roasted bell pepper, all punctuated by notes of black peppercorn and toasty oak over a sensual finish. Medium-bodied with moderate tannins and acids, it is a versatile wine that sips well on its own but is also deliciously food-friendly. We found it perfectly suited for spicy and wood-fired dishes such as pizza and soulfully seasoned spit-roasted meats and poultry. (Bottled unfiltered)
A Lailey flagship red, “5” is named for the five traditional Bordeaux varieties of which it is blended — Merlot (39%), Cabernet Franc (24%), Cabernet Sauvignon (21%), Petite Verdot (9%), and Malbec (7%). It hits all the right notes for a Bordeaux blend, with aromas that suggest black current, dried herbs, and a hint of mint; followed by flavors that convey red and black berries, sweet cured tobacco, and graphite, with touches of black tea leaf and bitters unfolding on a savory finish. It is medium-bodied and framed by firm tannins, moderate acids, and cedar-tinged oak. It is a finely-textured and graceful red that will present best with food. Pair it with medium-to-sharp cheeses and charcuterie, seared duck breast, grilled steak, and roasted pork chops. (Bottled unfiltered)
Availability: Lailey Vineyards’ production volume is fairly modest, and its wines are not customarily imported into the United States. The winery is, however, easy to reach from the Niagara Falls area — only about 12 miles (20 km) north of Niagara Falls, Ontario, on the Niagara Parkway. If you find yourself in that area (even if you are crossing over from the U.S. side) we encourage you to pay them a visit. The winery is located at 15940 Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. For more information on the winery and tasting opportunities, visit them virtually at www.laileyvineyard.com.