Hernder Estates is a large and beautiful facility that is very popular for weddings and special functions. We visited them TWICE this weekend due to my obsession with their iced fruit and traditional icewines and both times wedding parties were on site.
Their main facility is a restored Victorian barn and their estate is famous for the little bridge you pass over just before entering the winery grounds and the picturesque man-made pond beside the facility buildings and just before the vineyards themselves. As you can imagine, it’s an ideal setting for wedding pictures and plenty were taken on our Saturday visit.
Our group tasted a combination of traditional table wines, icewines and fruit wines.
2005 MERLOT CIC - SMOOTH – A rich red wine with a strong black currant nose. Medium body holds a lot of strong black currant, black pepper and oak flavors. Very smoky wine. It’s apparently aged over two years in oak barrels which explains the strong smokiness of the wine.
2007 GREEN TEA GEWURZTRAMINER – Light gold color, strong green tea nose, classic mineral and tropical fruit taste of Gewurz with high acidity… and then a green tea finish in the aftertaste. Yes, this actually works.
RHUBARB FRUIT WINE – An off-dry rhubarb fruit wine. Light pink color, very light body, light rhubarb nose and taste. Straightforward, a little lighter in flavor than I thought it would be. The best way to describe this would be a light fruit rosé wine.
2007 BARREL-FERMENTED SYRAH ICEWINE – One of just two Syrah/Shiraz icewines made in the Niagara region (Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Estates being the other). Berry and black pepper nose. Great taste of strawberries with a spicy black pepper, oak and vanilla complexity thanks to the barrel-fermenting. RECOMMENDED
ICED PEACH – Full bodied, golden yellow, nice canned clingstone peach taste in the mouth. Thick mouthcoating feel. If Vidal icewine is canned peach syrup, then this was the actual canned peaches themselves in liquid form. Mellow and flavorful. RECOMMENDED
ICED RASPBERRY – Raspberry red color, full bodied, thick mouthcoating feel again. Strong raspberry flavors and very sweet but a surprisingly nice though small bit of balancing acidity that I would say their Iced Strawberry lacks and needs Nice stuff. RECOMMENDED
ICED BLUEBERRY – Dark blue, medium bodied and certainly thinner than their iced peach, strawberry and blueberry wines. Wild blueberry nose and flavors.
OVERALL: High-class country is the only and best way to describe Hernder. It carries over from their beautiful facility into the wines themselves. They mix low-end with high-end seamlessly into a beautiful whole.
They’ve built their facility from an old tattered farm up into a prized wedding destination. They treat their merlot which is considered a “lower” red grape by wine aficionados like a Reserve Cabernet with the log oak aging. They barrel ferment their icewines but make them out of prized Syrah and Pinot Gris. They make lowly fruit wines but then class them up by giving them the icewine treatment.
Wine purists may possibly raise an eyebrow at the fact that for such a large winery they don’t have anything remotely resembling a “reserve” line of wines (They don’t make anything other than their icewines that costs more than $20 a bottle) and scoff at their green tea Gewurtz and fruit wines.
Then again, they’re not trying to be Niagara’s answer to Burgundy like Le Clos de Jordanne or Mountain Road are. What they are doing is classing up Niagara country winemaking while retaining their country farm roots and they make it work.
The sweet tooth rules again in my case, having purchased their Pinot Gris and Syrah icewines and their iced fruit wines, but their Merlot and Gewurz were good enough that I look forward to trying their regular table wines on my next visit, particularly their Baco Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.