Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run has succeeded at crafting elegant PEC wines for over 20 years, focusing on highlighting the specific terroir of the County and creating some of the best examples of cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the world. Dan received the “Best Red Wine in Ontario” medal at the 2020 Ontario Wine Awards for his signature JCR Pinot Noir 2018. Sitting on the “Hungry Point” isthmus, surrounded by Lake Ontario on 3 sides, the vines dig deeply into the rocky, calcareous limestone soil. The long sunny days and cool evenings of the region, along with the high acid levels and low pH of the estate soils, ensure Rosehall wines are never lacking in freshness and structure. It is this kind of nervy tension that allows for the production of sublime sparkling wines, both traditional method as well as tank-fermented sparklers, including the exceedingly popular “Pixie” brand. The key to Rosehall’s success is its attention to detail in the vineyard. Sullivan believes that he simply bottles what the vineyard gives him. Yields are infinitesimally small compared to other wine regions, made smaller still by careful selection. Grapes are harvested at full phenolic ripeness, made difficult by the sometimes slow ripening and by the inherent climactic dangers of long hang times.
Nestled on a peninsula on the north shore of Lake Ontario, a short drive from Kingston, the Prince Edward County wine region sits on a bed of porous limestone. This is crucial for creating the mineral, brightly acidic wines the region is known for. The vineyards benefit from breezes off of Lake Ontario, keeping the temperature down on hot summer days and cool at night. “The County” was first settled in the late 18th Century and, after years of farmland agriculture, began growing grapes in earnest by the early 2000s.
The land where Rosehall Run chose to establish its roots was previously known by local farmers as “Hungry Point”, where conditions were dry, winds were harsh and shallow-rooted plants did not always thrive. It turns out vinifera grapes are right at home here! The vines dig deep into the earth, gathering enough water and nutrition from the mineral-rich clay to produce ripe, concentrated fruit. The Hungry Point Pinot Gris is sourced from the West Vineyard.
Pinot Gris is a white-wine grape originally from the vineyards of Burgundy, now planted in wine regions all over the world. A member of the extended Pinot family, Pinot Gris is a pink-skinned mutation of Pinot Noir. The two varieties are indistinguishable in the vineyard right up until veraison. Flavors and aromas vary greatly from region to region and from style to style, but common features include notes of pears, apples, stone fruit, tropical fruit, sweet spices and even a hint of smoke.
Hand-harvested, hand-sorted and gently pressed grapes are given some skin contact during cold settling before being transferred into stainless steel for cool fermentation. Once that is complete, the lion’s share of the wine is aged sur lie in large oak puncheons for 14 months. These neutral vessels help round out any rough edges, evolving the flavours and making the wine a delight to enjoy upon release.
The nose is mild, with pretty white flowers and stone fruit notes at play. The palate is smooth and supple with stone fruit, apricot, nectarine and honeydew flavours. The telltale Prince Edward County nerviness is far less noticeable here, although there is a good undertone of minerality that speaks to the limestone it was grown on and provides some complexity. The wine comes across far richer on the palate than the nose. Chill and serve on its own, with steamed mussels or alongside a soft cheese.