A Trail worth taking

By / Wine + Drinks / May 14th, 2020 / 20

Trail Estate Winery is located close to the town of Hillier in PEC and right next to the Millennium Trail from which it takes its name. The winery sits on fourteen acres, seven of which are planted to a mix of predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a smattering of other cold hearty varieties. The area is known for a prized soil structure called Hillier clay, characterized by fairly shallow reddish-brown clay loam soils over limestone and shale bedrock which drains well and helps to control vine vigor, as a result improving concentration and contributing to finesse in the glass. With fruit from this special place as her canvass, along with fruit purchased from some of the top vineyards in Niagara, winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois is crafting truly beautiful wines that showcase edge and elegance. She uses very few manipulations in the vineyard and the winery, with low inputs and very little (if any) filtration with the aim of spotlighting vineyard and vintage, which while not a new concept, is well accomplished. I thoroughly enjoyed my time visiting there this past January, and during easy-going conversation with Alex Sproll (proprietor) and Mackenzie, recognized immediately that there is something special about Trail; that beautiful combination of good people making honest wine that speaks of place and time.

2018 Trail Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard Twenty Mile Bench Niagara $35

I love seeing this vineyard name on a bottle of Riesling; its signature of fruit is so inviting. Mackenzie ages this wine in barrel (500l neutral oak) after pressing and cold settling. Aromatically the character of the place shines through, with a juicy, peachy, grapefruity brightness complimented with sensations of stony earth. The wine fermented dry and completed malo, and on the palate has a good weight and texture from lees and the fruit, but the dryness and the acidity keep it focused and laser like. 

2018 Trail Riesling Hughes Vineyard Lincoln Lakeshore Niagara $30

This wine was fermented in stainless on skins for about two weeks and was transferred to barrel. She made the decision to age in barrel from experimenting in 2017 (the ‘17 was divided between barrel and tank for aging); this choice strengthened the wine’s health and longevity while also giving her the structure she was after and allowed for minimal sulphur additions. Restrained delicate aromas of citrus fruits and blossoms, the palate shows a texture that reminds me of Wachau Riesling, but with a less extracted fruit character. It has a grippy-fresh finish that makes me think of its versatility with richer fried and fatty foods.

2018 Trail Estate Chardonnay PEC $40

This is the third vintage made from vines planted in 2012-2013. Aging done in oak, with 1/3 of the barrels in their second use and the rest third fill and older/neutral. Made with wild yeast fermentation and no filtration, with a small sulphuring for stability. The aromas are true to a well young cooler climate Chardonnay, reserved, not yet at their most compelling, but showing good concentration. The palate has a really beautiful balance with excellent flavour intensity and good acid structure for aging. An excellent wine, with its best years yet to come.

2018 Trail Estate Pinot Noir PEC $40

Smaller production of about 100 cases/ four barrels. Showy nose, with a bright and ripe fruit character, youthful floral aromas and subtle sweet oak spice. Nice concentration of flavours on the palate, crunchy red berry/cherry juice. It has a sleekness and vibrancy typical of PEC, but is not too lean. Elegant, approachable; I’d like to be friends with this wine.

2019 Trail ‘Oh Julius’ Ontario $35

This skin contact wine is a blend of grapes from PEC and Niagara that were vinified separately, with the composition being Riesling (35%), Muscat Ottonel (25%), Viognier (25%) and Gewürztraminer (15%). Explosive tropical and stone fruited nose, just slightly lifted. Good introduction to the skin contact style, as in there is a modest amount of tannin and bright, fresh, fruit driven flavours. Really pretty wine, makes me long for summer.

2019 Trail Pet Nat Red Ontario $35

There is a great meme of Jimmy Fallon writing a letter to a Sommelier in which he uses the phrase ‘red joy juice’. He must have been thinking of this wine. Baco Noir and Cabernet Franc from estate vineyards meets Riesling from Hughes Vineyard in Lincoln Lakeshore, an unlikely yet very happy friendship. The slightly candied tart red fruit nose is welcomed here, perhaps the Baco making itself known, and it sets the stage for a fun, frothy and simply joyful sip.


Brie Dema has a career rooted in hospitality and has worked with several fantastic Canadian wine and culinary programs including Langdon Hall, Fogo Island Inn and the Elora Mill. She has studied with WSET and CMS, holding the Diploma and the Advanced Pin respectively. Brie played the part of a bumblebee in her dance studio’s production of Peter Pan when she was five. She has a lousy sense of direction but can always find her way to the bottom of a glass of wine. Brie’s favorite role and greatest accomplishment is being a mom to her wonderful daughter Una. She wishes she was a better cook, but is glad she married a chef.

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