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Aug. 4, 2020 | Tuesday
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Wine Country with Victoria Gilbert: The Terroir Effect
Wine writer Victoria Gilbert with Ravine's head winemaker Lydia Tomek. (Supplied photo)

Wine Country
with Victoria Gilbert

Was that a snake slipping off behind that gnarly vine? Your walking shoes are covered with dense weeds as you meander the rows of grapes, searching for what exactly? The path to enlightenment? A great picnic spot? The meaning of life? 

You’re in the right place for it all; the soil beneath you is thriving and alive, the juicy grapes hang swollen on the cusp of picking; it must be an organic vineyard during harvest you’ve stumbled upon.

“When you’re doing organic farming, you have to go out daily and you have to really see what the vines are telling you,” says Lydia Tomek, head winemaker at Ravine Estate Winery.

“The fact that we are an organic site, we’re letting nature balance itself out. We’re letting that bio-diversity play a part in the interactions that the vines have, how the nutrients are being taken up, how the soil is preserved, the energy of the soil. Those are the things that we try to cradle.”

“Terroir” is a defined area in which the physical and chemical conditions of the natural environment, the geography, the location and the climate give rise to specific products.

That snake or those bugs eating those other bugs between the vines, the “life” of the soil, the way the sun hits that hillside you’re making your way up – they are all part of what those grapes will ultimately taste like in your glass. 

If what wine author André Dominé says is true, “that the same grape planted in different terroirs results in wines which differ greatly in structure and style,” what is known as the “terroir effect,” then the Ravine vineyards in St. Davids, with their rolling hillsides and sandy loam, are all part of this special terroir.

“The advantage and exciting part is we’re at one of the warmest spots in the Niagara Region and are one of the first to experience bud burst and our growing season is a lot warmer and a little bit longer and that makes us more resilient to those colder nights Niagara experiences once in a while,” says Tomek. 

Your boots are muddy but your spirits are high as you reach the end of the row of vines, thirsty for something to drink – you’re in the right place and don’t worry about dragging mud into the tasting room. It isn’t just mud, it’s terroir.

* NOTL resident Victoria Gilbert has been telling the stories of wine people in Canada and abroad through print and video for 15 years.