Story by Rod Charles
JORDAN, ONTARIO – Have you ever had to drink or serve a glass of wine in a social setting? Then you’ve probably had to listen to someone preach the “rules of wine.”
You have to have red wine with steak. Pinot Noir is best with lamb. Ice wines go best with dessert. Sparkling wine is spot-on perfect for fried food.
And that’s just for starters.
My father, who was a pastor, moved our family to Vineland, Ontario for a few years. In that time, living so close to so many wineries, I began to experiment with different types and even started my own wine collection. While it never seemed to grow beyond six bottles (thirsty collector syndrome), I was very proud of it and over time began to think of myself as somewhat of a wine expert.
I had a Rosé, a Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and some champagne. But my favourite wine was, and continues to be, the late harvest dry Riesling – smooth and sweet, this in my opinion is the perfect wine to relax with during or after your meal.
The problem is I can drink this wine with dinner, lunch, brunch, or a midnight snack. I can drink the stuff with fish, beef, chicken, lasagna, macaroni salad, brie, or a bag of potato chips. It’s my favourite wine, and while I enjoy and appreciate different kinds. No other comes close to the beauty of the Riesling.
By the way, I’m not kidding. Sadly, I actually have sipped Riesling with a bag of potato chips, while watching a Chuck Norris movie no less.
But this doesn’t make sense. Seriously, do I have a problem? Drinking a Riesling with a bag of potato chips is blasphemy, isn’t it?
Not at all, says Ed Madronich – President and Chief Wine Taster at Flat Rock Cellars winery, who made it clear there’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking your wine your way.
“That to me is the problem with wine. We tell you guys what you’re supposed to do, what you’re supposed to like, and therefore you don’t do what you actually like to do,” says Madronich. “If you like a late harvest Riesling, drink more of it. Who cares?”
For many, a glass of wine becomes intimidating when they try to pair it with food, or pick ‘just the right one’ for that special occasion. But Madronich insists that drinking wine shouldn’t be intimidating. If you’re drinking it, that’s the “greatest thing”, and it should be celebrated.
“We in the wine industry, we put up those barriers, we intimidate you, we prevent you from actually feeling comfortable enjoying our product,” says Madronich. “I want you to enjoy whatever product of mine it is you love. If you don’t love any of them, well, that sucks, but I would rather you not drink my wine unless you really loved it.”
Founded in 1999 on a spectacular piece of the Niagara Escarpment known as the Jordan Bench – Flat Rock is perched on a gently rolling slope studded with vines. The winery building is a quirky, glass encased, hexagonal masterpiece that‘s distinctive and fun. From here you can enjoy our crowning glory, the breathtaking views of the Peninsula and across Lake Ontario to Toronto. A beautiful pond can be seen from the building and locals are always welcome to stop by and enjoy a skate.
Madronich credits a summer in France and exposure to a few choice bottles of wine for his passion. Since that first foray into the vines, he knew that he wanted to make great wines. For him, wine is more than a passion and delicious beverage – one he calls the greatest product ever created on earth – it’s also an experience.
During our tour, we share several different wines, including their Rusty Shed Chardonnay ($25.15) and their 2010 Riesling ($17.15). Madronich refuses to give us “tasting notes,” saying it’s okay for us to prefer one over the other and that he didn’t want to influence our perception of the wine. We finish off the tasting with a 2006 Sparkling Brut, along with a lovely cup of mulligatawny soup.
After our tasting, we went outside and did something I haven’t done in a long time – roasted marshmallows over a campfire. Of course, these weren’t ordinary marshmallows – they were infused with Icewine. You can also roast yours at Flat Rock Cellars, but only until January 29, the end of the Niagara Icewine Festival.
As the man said – don’t be intimidated. It’s okay to enjoy your wine any way you like – even roasted.