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.
Most of the grapes come from some of the earliest experimental plantings on the farm, dating back to 2001.
This wine is a self described “toybox” of experimental plantings, mixed with some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay planting on the farm.
Pinot Noir was cold soaked in an open top bin in the winery’s cold room, followed by the Muscat. Both varieties spent approximately two weeks on skins at 4°C with zero SO2 added. The “toybox” was the penultimate pick at Rosehall Run in 2019 and these grapes were immediately hand bombed right out of the picking lugs into the press, along with a healthy dose of dry ice blanketing over top—all the better to provide cover to let carbonic maceration begin the delicate dance of fermentation. By day four, the hiss coming from the press was audible from yards away, as the periodic rotation gently mixed the indigenous ferment permeating the must. At that point, the tank was opened and freshly picked Tempranillo was added before the entire lot was pressed. Once there was enough space in the chamber, the Muscat and Pinot were added and the press cycle was complete. The must fermented in tank for a couple of days to near dryness as the sugar from the Tempranillo was quickly devoured. The wine received two rackings to separate the gross lees and mitigate bottle reduction. Finally, a dollop of sparkling Chardonnay must was added to tweak the sugar and up the bubble potential. You can call it what it is – a simple pre-bottling tirage.
The palate is delicious: dry, high acid in the best way, like cranberry juice with a splash of raspberry purée; leafy like unripe Pinot Noir; rhubarb and dried mint – the sort of profile that grows on you after a few sips.