So I've been keeping this "wine secret" for several years
So I've been keeping this "wine secret" for several years

JC Mackin
January 31 · Nichols, NY, United States


So I've been keeping this "wine secret" for several years, and I've finally decided to share it: There's a craaazy good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer just a few hours' drive from Central New York (3h 15m from Syracuse), but in a region that almost everyone around here overlooks.

The region I'm talking about is Canada's Prince Edward County, a peninsula that juts southward into Lake Ontario, about 1 hour west of the Thousand Islands. Seems too far north for viticulture, right? But it's on a peninsula, so that extends the growing season and reduces winter kills. And they have southern exposure to the water, so that might have a bit of a warming effect too. Besides a warm microclimate, though, they also boast huge swaths of limestone soils, which many consider to be a secret ingredient for great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

And the producer I'm talking about is Exultet Estates. The owner, grower, and winemaker is all the same guy: Gerry Spinosa. When I visited, the dude looked *really* tired. Tired, like he had been donating his blood to his vineyards every day for 15 years. And he might as well have been. "If you only knew how much I was out there, cutting and pruning to get sun exposure on every single cluster of grapes," I remember him confiding with a wince, as if he were confessing a terrible secret about his life.

Fortunately, in this case you can taste the effort in the wine. Over the years Exultet Chardonnays have won more awards in Canada, but during our visit I was even more impressed by the Pinots, which were possibly the most truly Burgundian in style I've tasted outside of Burgundy.

And then something really cool happened. Sensing our appreciation for his Pinots, he took us to his barrel room and gave us samples of what had not yet been bottled. And *then* he took us to the front and opened a bottle of his crowning achievement, his 2009 Pinot Noir. There were only a few bottles left, he said. Few people appreciated it, but HE loved it. It was a near-ideal exemplar of the kind of wine HE wanted to make.

That 2009 stunned me with its layered floral aromas, its concentration of fruit, earth, and color, all perfectly integrated with the oak, and finesse! --that thing one always hopes to find in a Pinot and so rarely does.

I said to him, "This is premier cru quality wine." No, I didn't go overboard and say it was *grand cru* quality because I was trying to act sane and relatively level-headed. But premier cru? Yes, that seemed like a legitimate compliment. And boy, did he love hearing that. In fact, after that he let us buy two of his last bottles.

And those bottles have been sitting downstairs for years. Every once in a while I see them and start to doubt myself. Was I just drunk? Was my palate dead because it was our last stop that day? And recently, I realized it was time to try one of them. It's going on 8 and a half years, and how long can you really hold on to a Pinot from Prince Edward County?

We opened one tonight. I was NOT disappointed. In fact, it might have been better than I remembered. It is absolutely a dead ringer for a premier cru Burg. And not even a premier cru in name only. I mean a decent premier cru for 70-80 dollars that you taste and think, "Whew, this is one of the good ones. I'm glad I didn't waste my money."

So that's my secret. I'm not saying every Pinot this guy produces is going to have the magic of the 2009, and in fact, maybe he's never reached that height again. But his wines were all good, and if you live in Central New York it's worth taking a weekend trip up there to check him out. http://exultet.ca #PrinceEdwardCounty #CanadianWine #Burgundy #ExultetEstates