Norm Beal, a native of Hamilton, was travelling constantly closing multimillion dollar oil contracts, when one day his sister managed to persuade him to look at a few potential properties in Niagara Peninsula with the hope that he would decide to slow down a little and enjoy life.
He remembers vividly how he felt when he first saw the Queen-Anne style house and visited it on that clear, bitterly cold November day. He says, “ It was the culmination of everything I wanted. “
He decided then and there to open a quality winery with a capacity to produce 35,000 cases. A modern winery design was commissioned, vineyard quality land purchased and planted. Then Norman Beal decided to convert the Victorian manor built in 1855 to a restaurant. From the beginning, the philosophy was to produce prime quality from locally grown fruit. To that end, Mr Beal decided to acquire the best equipment money can buy, and while in France met Jean Pierre Colas, who at the time was working at the award-winning Domaine Laroche winery in Chablis. After lengthy negotiations and consideration, Colas decided that freedom in making wine in a viticulturally developing region was better than in a highly regulated and restricted environment.
Peninsula Ridge owns 80 acres (approximately 33 hectares) of prime land, of which 25 are planted to noble vitis vinifera grapes. It also purchases fruit from reputable growers under contract.
Jean Pierre Colas has been able to make fine wines from fruit that comes from four-year-old vines (vines older than nine years produce better quality). Modest, highly professional individual J.P Colas is not given to hyperboles. He speaks slowly, deliberately choosing his words carefully and without any derogatory comment on his competitors.
A meticulous winemaker, J. P Colas was able to coax the best from the 1999 vintage when most others stumbled.
Presently 17 wines are produced, of which seven are white, including two icewines.
Only two of the winery’s wines are listed with the LCBO. Chardonnay 2000, a crisp, clean, fruity white wines with a minerally finish and bright acidity. A wine highly recommended for mild pan-fried or poached fish, or grilled poultry and seafood pastas.
The Cabernet 2007, an equal blend of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc shows well with forward fruit and good depth. It will improve with another year or two of cellaring.
J.P. Colas has imagination. He blended Chardonnay and Sauvignon Bland to cerate a wine he calls Equinox; it shows smoke and vanilla undertones. Pear and citrus aromas dominate. In the mouth beautifully integrated flavours of toasted oak, vanilla and honey-lemon complete the taste profile of this unique blend. Pair it confidently with fish, i.e. pan-fried sea bass or poached salmon with cream and dill sauce.
Peninsula Ridge’s Meritage (a blend of Merlot 50 %, Cabernet Sauvignon 35 % and Cabernet franc 15 %) exudes plum, black cherries and cranberry aromas buttressed with firm tannins and full body. (Cellar for three to five years).
By all accounts, Norman Beal has created a winery and restaurant worthy of a wine region much like Niagara.
J.P Colas left the winery three years ago to sursue other projects, but the quality of wines have not changed noticeably since then.
The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday 11.30 – 3 p m. and 5 – 10 pm.
Retail store open daily, year round, except Christmas, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.