Our final stop of the day was Henry of Pelham Family Estate in St. Catharines. This winery was established in 1988 by Paul and Bobbi Speck, and is now operated by their sons Paul Jr., Matthew, and Daniel.
Matthew Speck (who is the Viticulture Manager) provided our tour. He started with an overview of the history of the winery and his family’s deep roots in the area (over 200 years). The name “Henry of Pelham” comes from an ancestor, Henry Smith, who went by the name “Henry of Pelham” when signing documents. He built the 1842 carriage house that now houses the winery’s retail store and hospitality rooms.
The next stop was the barrel cellar, where Matthew described the process of creating sparkling wines. While sipping Cuvée Catharine Brut Rosé, we learned that sparkling wine and champagne go through fermentation with a crown cap (like a bottle cap), rather than a cork. The crown cap is later replaced with a cork for marketing reasons – people want the look and sound of a cork popping. But it would actually be better to use the crown cap right through to the end, because it eliminates the problem of cork taint.
Next, we made our way down to the first floor of the barrel cellar, where a long table had been set up for us to enjoy more wine and a charcuterie plate from Niagara Food Specialties. As Mario Pingue from Niagara Food Specialties described each type of preserved meat, we sampled some very fine wines from the winery. Here were the combinations:
- Lonza (cured and smoked pork loin) with 2008 Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented
- Bresaola (salt-rubbed and brined beef) with 2007 Pinot Noir, Reserve
- Capocollo (cured and dried pork butt) with 2007 Baco Noir, Reserve
- Porchetta (boneless pork roast) with 2008 Riesling Icewine
This was a culinary experience like I’ve never had before – sampling amazing wines while eating carefully-crafted charcuterie meats, all while surrounded by oak barrels in a huge wine cellar. It was a very special experience, and not something you get to do every day! All I can say is, if you’re ever offered the chance to take a destination familiarization tour with an industry group, jump on it!
A big thanks to OCTA for allowing a few people from the general public to come on this tour, and to the wineries, chefs, and the Wine Council of Ontario for putting on such a great tour!