“Looks like my work in the vineyard paired with Fred’s expertise is working,” says Lou Puglisi with a smile. Lou is the owner and grower at Pondview Estate which has been growing grapes since 1974. He is referring to himself and his winemaker Fred DiProfio.
Lou was born into a grape-growing family and grew up on the farm where the winery sits today where 60 acres of grapes grow (today they farm 100 acres in total … more on that later). But what started this former Ontario Grape King (2008/09) to take the big leap from humble grower to winery owner? What put him on the path to making wine from his own grapes that he once sold to other wineries? As it turns out, it was the aforementioned award:
“After visiting the Okanagan and seeing some of the independent wineries there I was inspired to turn some of my grapes into wine and selling them directly from the farm.” Grape Kings get the chance to travel to British Columbia to explore the Canadian wine scene on the West Coast and represent Ontario in that market. “The plan was to make a couple of thousand cases a year and keep selling grapes to other wineries. That obviously changed very quickly, and after 2 years, he used up all his grapes to produce [his own] wine and has expanded the farm since to keep up with the demand.”
The winery specializes in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, but it really was the Chardonnay that first caught people’s attention 10 years ago, leading to a very exciting achievement: “I was very excited that we won a gold medal at the Chardonnay du Monde this year and placed in the top 10 Chardonnays in the world at the same competition.”
But Lou’s heart is really with his red wines, describing Pondview as a “Cabernet house first and foremost” an interesting statement for a Niagara-based winery, when you take into consideration our cool climate does not always favour the ripening of Cabernet – and while Cabernet Sauvignon is the usual assumptive grape when someone in the wine world mentions “Cabernet”, in Ontario we’re partial to Sauvignon’s less famous father: Cabernet Franc, which Pondview is also well-known for.
As is typical in cool climate wine regions it’s the art of the blend that creates really great red wines and Lou recognizes that as he touts their Cabernet-Merlot based wines as their best sellers. But the real showstoppers are their Bella Terra (read: reserve wines) from 30-plus year old vines, both single varietal and blended versions.
We’ve already covered their popular Chardonnay earlier but other white wines to look for are those made from Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc which are both sophisticated and pleasurable wines every year; Pondview even has the relatively rare Viognier grape in the ground, which is always worth a try.
Over the years, Lou has expanded his vineyard holdings to meet demand – hence the rise from 60 to 100 acres – because control of the vineyard is the best way to get high quality grapes and thus high quality wines: “We are focusing all our efforts on terroir and not necessarily always jumping on the next trend,” he says. After all, wine is about time, and turning your production on a dime is not an easy thing to do, especially when taking into account it takes 3 years for a newly planted vine to come into production.
It’s always fun to ask a veteran grower, and now winery owner, who they respect / admire within the industry. “There are a lot of growers and winemakers that I have a lot of respect for … But because I am partial to ripe and complex reds, I love what the Icel family is doing over at iCellars. Very welcoming people, great philosophy in regards to growing grapes and producing excellent wines, and you can really see a ton of passion when you walk onto the property and into the winery!”
Lou is also quick to give credit to his winemaker Fred DiProfio, who left where his economics degree was going to take him to work a few harvests at Pillitteri, and then, with a little encouragement, enrolled in Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture program. When Lou came calling in 2009 about needing help starting his own winery Fred jumped at the chance. Fred has called it a “true confidence boost to have Puglisi trust his ability,” he told Niagara This Week back in December 2016.
Pondview is truly one of those hidden gems off the beaten track in Niagara, “we were a hidden spot on Line 2, away from the main stretch on Highway 55”, recalls Lou of those early days – today the operative word in that sentence is “were” because Pondview Estate is busy, and the wines … they’re better than ever.
Michael’s Top 3 Selections (rating is out of 5 stars) …
Pondview 2019 Sur Lie Chardonnay, Bella Terra ($19.95 – winery only) An entry-level priced Bella Terra wine that delivers great value. Eight months on lees (spent yeast cells) and has developed lots of great character such as apricot / nectarine, peach and apple, plus notes of vanilla and a fresh, lively minerality … there’s even a hint of pineapple. Really enjoyable. Rating: ****+
Pondview 2016 Meritage, Bella Terra ($49.95) Aged in bottle up to 1.5 years before release Bella Terra is one of those rare “reserve” wines that follows the old motto of “we’ll sell no wine before it’s time”. Made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 17% Cabernet Franc it is one of those wow-must-have wines. Silky and smooth with notes of chocolate / mocha and vanilla, dark fruit, namely black cherry and spiced plum along with subtle smoke and acidity that keeps everything in check. Nice balance, drinkable now but also age-able for a decade-plus. Rating: **** ½
Pondview 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bella Terra ($39.95) This is a “gorgeous piece of winemaking” (quoted from my own rough notes): smooth and silky with lots of dark fruit (blackberry / black cherry) subtle cedar, smoky and spicy with nips of vanilla and cinnamon; there’s a touch of violet wafting up from the glass as well. Ready now but will definitely be available for your drinking pleasure till 2030. Rating: ****+
Pondview Estate is located at: 925 Line 2 Rd. RR #2 Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0 Canada And can be found on social media … Facebook – @PondviewEstateWinery Twitter – @pondviewwinery Instagram – @pondviewwinery