What a terrific chat with Norm Hardie, Winemaker, Hardie Wines!
Click on the arrow above to watch the video.
Listen to Norm’s stories about his journey from sommelier to winemaker.
Discover why Prince Edward County is such an exciting wine region.
P.S. Join us next Sunday, August 27, at 6 pm eastern right here with Caroline LeBlanc Torres:
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Watch previous episodes of the Sunday Sipper Club (SSC) and find out who’s coming up next.
Click on the arrow above to hear Norm’s story about becoming a leader in the wine industry, especially in defining the role of winemakers.
Watch previous episodes of the Sunday Sipper Club (SSC) and find out who’s coming up next.
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Here’s a sampling of our lively discussion from our tasting…
There’s a reason that Norm Hardie has a cult following. Taste one of his wines and you’ll see why.
But it’s more than that.
This South African native, moved to Toronto with his parents as a teenager. However, it wasn’t until his graduated from a sommelier program in Dijon, Burgundy’s region iconic for both wine and mustard.
He returned to Toronto to become a sommelier at the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel for six years. However, the itch to make wine, not just serve it, prompted him to spend another six years working in various vineyards around the world. That’s actually 12 vintages since he was working in both hemispheres.
Eventually, he found his small piece of winemaking heaven in Prince Edward County, and specialized in the wines of Burgundy, namely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The soils are a mix of limestone and clay, much like Burgundy.
He’s now been making wine in PEC for 11 years.
We’ll find out why people thought he was crazy even to try making wine in PEC, and why he stubbornly persisted.
The County is much cooler than Niagara, and winters can be harsh. It’s one of the reasons that winemakers have to bury the vines before wine — a process called hilling, or pushing earth half way up the cane of the vine to protect it from killing frosts.
Today, it all looks easy when his wines are getting top ratings in coveted publications such as Decanter and Wine Spectator.
Norm also takes a special interest in developing new winemakers, sommeliers and wine enthusiasts. He makes time for wine education, whether it’s chatting to those who drop by the winery tasting room or who seek him out for advice.
We’ll ask him about the so-called “Normatory” where he has a spare bed for visiting winemakers and sommeliers.
Norman Hardie Riesling 2016
Ontario V.Q.A., Canada
Norman Hardie is one of a select few winemakers in the world who has mastered the art of tasting, growing and making wine in both Hemispheres and six wine regions around the world. In his early twenties, he received his sommelier certification from the esteemed wine program at the University of Dijon in Burgundy and put his skills to work as a sommelier for Four Seasons Hotels for six years.
His insatiable thirst to master the art of winemaking, led him on a six year journey apprenticing for the very best producers/winemakers of cool climate varieties in Burgundy, South Africa, Oregon, New Zealand and California.
1996 Evesham Wood (Oregon); winemaker apprentice
1997-2000 Bouchard-Finlayson (South Africa); assistant winemaker
1997 Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Volnay (France); winemaker apprentice
1998 Domaine de la Vougeraie, Premeaux (France); winemaker apprentice
1999 Nicolas Potel, Nuits St. Georges (France) winemaker apprentice
2001-2002 Central Otago Wine Company (New Zealand); right hand to the winemaker
2002 Au Bon Climat and Qupe, Santa Barbara (California); right hand to the winemaker
In 2003, grape acreage in Prince Edward County was still considerably small and the opportunity to purchase fruit was non-existent. Norman’s decision to establish his winery in Prince Edward County, versus Niagara, put him in a position to grow and plant in the County while still providing opportunity to source fruit from select limestone-clay driven sites in Niagara.
Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2015
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada
In a few short years Norman Hardie Winery has established itself as one of Canada’s premier wineries. It now has 40 acres of land under vine in Prince Edward County and continues to work with the most dedicated growers on some of the best sites in the Niagara Peninsula.
Though climatic conditions to grow vines in the County are more challenging than in Niagara, it was the soil profiles that were the deciding factor. Our mineral based Hillier Clay Loam, a mix of clay and limestone chunks, derived from the under-laying fractured limestone base to a depth of 30”, is the equivalent of Burgundy type soils.
Combined with the moderating lake effect assisting our growing conditions, Prince Edward County is the most promising wine region of Canada to produce top-quality cool climate wines. After many years of working in the wine industry worldwide, Norman believed that it was not only important to ensure the quality and high standards of the wines he makes, but also to provide his customers with an experience when they visit the winery.
Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2015
Niagara, Ontario VQA, Canada
In order to achieve this goal, the winery was designed by Ian Starkey, a specialist in rural Ontario architecture, who, after looking at the local surroundings, advised to build it as a modern barn. Thus the present premises of Hardie Wines were built in 2004 to accommodate a barrel cellar, wine processing, cellaring facility and a tasting bar.
The rural design portrays the image of the agricultural setting and provides our guests with an experience that helps them to identify with the hard work, effort, and skill needed to grow premium grapes and make high quality wines that can compete on a global scale. But the experience cannot stop here.
It also extends to our customer service at the tasting bar that can only be attained by a knowledgeable staff that has had, as a matter of policy, a hand in creating our wines, be it in the vineyard or involvement in the actual wine making process.
In recent years, our wood-fired pizza oven has been drawing crowds and receiving rave reviews from patrons of all ages. In addition, our annual harvest is the highlight for us and our friends and patrons. They are invited to help bring in the grapes, participate in grape processing and share a local fare of fresh farmed meats and vegetables in season and witness the passion and hard work that goes into making a great wine.
From his inaugural vintage, Norm’s wines have garnered both local and international recognition. Most recently, Norm’s wines were celebrated by Jancis Robinson, Decanter’s Steven Spurrier and Ian D’Agata.
His 2013 County Chardonnay was selected by Matt Kramer among his “Three Most Exciting Wines of the 21st century (so far)” at the 2016 New York Wine Experience and was featured in Wine & Spirits’ “Best Wines of the Year” issue.
“These soils and climate are what winemakers from around the world are looking for to craft Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, of exceptional quality.” – Norman Hardie
Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2007
Prince Edward County, Ontario VQA, Canada
Norman Hardie Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014
Prince Edward County, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada
Norman Hardie Riesling 2015
Prince Edward County, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada
Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2014
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada
Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2011
Niagara, Ontario VQA, Canada
Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2013
Prince Edward County, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada
Norman Hardie County Pinot Gris 2012
Prince Edward County, Canada
Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2008
Prince Edward County, Canada
Norman Hardie Cuvee L Chardonnay 2008
V.Q.A., Ontario, Canada
Norman Hardie Unfiltered Chardonnay 2008
V.Q.A., PEC, Ontario, Canada
Norman Hardie Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2008
Prince Edward County, Canada
Before becoming a winemaker, Norm Hardie worked as a sommelier with Four Seasons Hotels for 6 years. He then studied wine at the University of Dijon and apprenticed with several wineries in Burgundy, Oregon, South Africa and New Zealand. Live from his cellar, we chat about:
– What are the differences between Prince Edward County (PEC) and Niagara wines?
– Acid in my wine? I don’t want that! Or do I?
– Does limestone really impart a flavour to the wines?
– Just how cold does it get there in the winter and how does that affect the vines?
– What must PEC do better as a wine region going forward?
– We taste Norm’s Pinot Noir and he has a brilliant flavour comparison between it and California Pinot involving strawberries.
This video is from several years ago …
Norm talked about hilling the soil around the trunk of the vines. This helps protect the vine in the winter during extreme cold temperatures.In the spring, the soil is removed from the trunk.
2009 Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County, Ontario
Cherry-beetroot with tart edges. I like Norm’s style. He’s working his way to pure genius. Dark spices on the finish with some pleasant sour cherry. Vote Norm! Food matches: herbed veal cooked rare. Drink: 2011 – 2015 125310 11.5% XD 750 ml $35.20 90/100
You can access more reviews of Norman Hardie Wines here.
After winning the Best Canadian Wine with Pizza for his County Pinot Noir in The Great Canadian Wine Match, Norm Hardie has shared with us his favourite wine and pizza pairings based on the pizzas made daily at his winery in an outdoor wood-burning oven from May to late fall.
Like his wines, Norm says, there is no exact recipe for the pizzas, which vary based on seasonal ingredients as well as the daily heat and humidity.
Here are Norm’s favourite pizzas with his County Pinot Noir:
Margherita: tomato, fior di latte, basil
Cochon: tomato, fior di latte, basil, salami
With his Chardonnay, he likes:
Quattro Fromaggi: fior di latte, pecorinno, parmigiano, gorgonzola, garlic, seasonal vegetables
Tart flambé: aged white cheddar, creme fraiche, speck, onion
You’ll have to visit the winery in Prince Edward County to enjoy these pizzas, and even more so, his spectacular wines! In the meantime, you can watch a wine video of Norm chatting from his cellar on site and a list of his wines to try.
You may also enjoy these video chats:
Biodynamic and organic wines: do they taste better? Healthier? We chat with winemaker Ann Sperling, Southbrook Vineyards
Price of wines: how are they set? Is expensive always better? John Skinner, Painted Rock Winery
Shipping Canadian wine across borders with Bill C-311: Shirley-Ann George talks about the Free My Grapes campaign
See all wine video chats here.
Is there someone else with a fascinating wine story whom you think I should interview? Please e-mail me: email@example.com.
Tonight you’re going to learn why you need to dig down and explore the wines of Prince Edward County for your own personal pleasure from one of the region’s most respected winemakers. He has lots of colourful stories to tell us, and so you’ll want to stay-tuned for some great entertainment.
I’m Natalie MacLean, Editor of Canada’s largest wine review site at Nataliemaclean.com, and you’re here with me on the Sunday Sipper Club, where we meet every Sunday at 6:00 PM Eastern, that’s Toronto/New York time, to talk to some of the most intriguing people in the world of wine. Now, before I introduce our guest tonight, in the comments below just let me know: have you ever tasted a Prince Edward County wine? I’m going to refresh my browser over here ’cause I want to know how familiar you are with the wines that we’ll be tasting tonight. Hey Laurie, I’m glad you’re here already! I’m assuming you guys can here and see me. All right, so let me get on with the intros, and I will keep an eye out on the comments. Excellent, Lees, Lees from Sudbury, Lynne from Ottawa. Laurie, oh, you drink them all the time, excellent! We’ve got a lot of excitement, a lot of people piling in very early-on here, I love it!
Our guest this evening has a cult following in the wine world. After he graduated from the University of Dijon’s Sommelier Program, he spent six years working as a sommelier at the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. Then he decided to make wine not just serve it, and spent another six years working in vineyards around the world, that was actually 12 vintages because he was working in both hemispheres, so he had a lot of training going into this. But he decided to make his home and his winery in Prince Edward County, and he joins me now live from The County, welcome Norm Hardie!
Thank you, Natalie, great to meet you.
Excellent, so good to have you here, Norm. Now, with that introduction fill in some details that I’ve left out, tell us a little bit about your personal life so we get to know you a little bit better before we dive in here.
Well, I think one of the things that people don’t realize, most people do an apprenticeship in their late teens, early 20’s. When I decided to become a winemaker I made the big jump at the age of 30, and doing the apprenticeship route was certainly a very challenging one, but I felt it was the best one to do. At 30 my friends were buying houses, having children, and getting married. And here I was leaving this beautiful, comfortable job with the Four Seasons with a great future and heading off with a backpack, and a plaid shirt, and a few T-shirts, and some work boots, to literally scour the world, and then go and work for the very, very best people, winemakers, for not very much money. In many cases, just enough money to make the plane ticket to the next place. There was a lot of sacrifice, but also at the same time, I felt learning from the very best was the best way to go. I was always that kid in the back of the class.
Were you? What does that mean? At the back of the class, I thought the keen kid was at the front of the class.
I always ended-up doing quite well, but I was always that guy, I sort of just hung out at the back, and I was just–
With the cool kids!
Well, trying to be cool.
Yeah, I just knew that going back to school at 30 was not the way I wanted to go. And also, I thought what was very important is that school and wine schools are amazing in the sense that they teach you to make wine very technically and sort of very, in a very sound way. But there’s something that a school cannot teach you, and that’s experience. I felt I could get enough education from reading books and that sort of stuff, but really to get this to the fine nuances and the smaller points, and also the real-life experience because I knew I had to open my own winery at some point,
Excellent. Absolutely, so I’m just going to welcome, also, Peter Chandler, who’s joining in from the UK, and looking forward to learning about Canadian wines, welcome, Chandler. Lees is up in Northern Ontario. Norm, Lees actually visited your winery recently, I believe, Norm. Yeah, Lees Garnier. And, “Norman is one of the best people working, “has the best people working for him, “it’s like a big family. “Well, that’s how it feels when you visit.” I’ve heard many good things about visiting your winery, Norm, we’re going to get into that pizza oven and all sorts of things, but I just wanted to welcome people here. Deb Kennedy loves Norm’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so welcome everybody! If you’re just joining us here with the Sunday Sipper Club, post in the comments below where you’re logging-in from, and what’s in your glass. Or, have you ever tried a Prince Edward County wine, yes or no? Okay, Norm, so you gave us a little bit of a, ooh! Hey, Beverly from Norwalk, California! All right, so Norm, you gave us a bit of a taste of how you got started in the wine world, but was there an exact moment when it triggered in your mind, “Hey, I really want to make wine”? Was there a place you were? Something that caused you to say, “I actually want to make wine, not just serve it”?
I think it was the time I was turning 30, which actually had nothing to do with it, but I had been with Four Seasons for seven years, and my next move was to go and work for, either be a food and beverage director in Tokyo, or in Turkey. What I really enjoyed being was their lead sommelier and having a huge impact on choosing the wines to the US properties. And I really loved wine, so I thought I was going to lose that, but also, the other thing I had was, I tasted with a lot of great winemakers and I felt, “If going to be a judge, I better have walked “in their shoes at some point.” So I thought, “This is a great time for me to actually “get out there, take a year, I’m 30,” I didn’t have any responsibilities, “I’ve got no kids, I’ve got no house, “I’ve got no mortgage. “I’m doing really well with Four Seasons “and they’re going to expand the company, “and leaving them for a year, “I’m sure the door will be open when I came back.” And I thought, “This is the time if I’m ever going to do it, “this is the time I going to do it.” I felt, also, from a knowledge standpoint as a sommelier, that that was very important. Now I see, which is fantastic, is in so many programs the students are a lot more involved, and the understanding of making and the growing of wines than when I did my studies. At that point I thought, “This is the time to do it. “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it now.”
Absolutely, yeah, those hands-on practicums, there’s nothing like it. Even wine writers benefit from some hands-on experience, I think, Norm.
We know that Prince Edward County has great limestone soils, and a nice, cool climate, and it’s on the edge of everything, which makes it nerveracking, I’m sure, to make wine. But tell us something about Prince Edward County that we don’t know about, why you chose it to make your wine.
Well, I think, ultimately I chose it because I’d been searching the world for these amazing clay and limestone soils. If you’re in France and you talk about clay and limestone, pretty much everyone has it in their back yard, not quite, but all the great wine regions of France are growing with clay and limestone. And so, for the French it’s like the, so this is what it is. But if you look in the New World, there’s very little clay and limestone where wines can grow. When I found Prince Edward County it was like, “Holy moly! “This is very, very special.” And then the first thing that goes off in your head, “Okay, this is too perfect, what’s wrong with this place?” And in the middle of the summer it’s pretty hard to find anything wrong with Prince Edward County. It’s got a lake moderating it. You have the clay and limestone soils. We have a really strong tourist base. But the biggest challenge, which most people don’t know about Prince Edward County and why it took so long to develop, is that every winter, at some point we get minus-25.
And we’re on the, we’re on the north shore of Lake Ontario which, in the winter, is the wrong side to be. Niagara does so well, it doesn’t have the same issues in the winter because they’re on the south shore of Lake Ontario. We can be at minus-25, 27, or 29, and the winds coming from the north where it’s super, super cold, it goes over Lake Ontario, and it warms up by 10, 12 degrees, and that’s why they’re so protected. What a lot of people I don’t think realize is they come to The County, it’s magnificent, it’s a great, I think it’s one of the greatest places in the world to grow grapes, except for the winter.
And that would be a problem, ’cause that’s sort of half the year, or thereby.
It’s a big part.
What do you do to protect the vines against that winter kill, that extreme cold that you get?
This is what sort of, I guess, until a lot of people realized we can do it economically and efficiently, we actually bury our vines and soils. Burying plants in soil is no new trick, or new anything. For those in Ottawa, they bury their rose bushes, at home you have six or seven rose bushes. On the Danforth there are many people in Toronto, in the Greek Community, that have fig trees, and they literally bend them over and cover all the green tissue with soil. Now, the difference between rose bushes and the vines is we have 80,000 vines. Seven rose bushes, 80,000 vines, you have to be able to do it fairly, you have to be able to it mechanically, and you have to be able to do it very quickly because you can only bury them once you’ve actually taken the fruit off.
Okay, and are you putting the dirt half way up the vine? Or what’s the, what are you trying to do? And you’re using mechanical means to do this?
For sure, we have to. Essentially, what we have very different to say, Niagara or California where they have a nice trunk system and everything is waist height, all our canes come right off the head of the vine, so everything’s very close to the ground. The whole idea is just that for each plant we tie down about between two and four canes from last year onto a wire on the ground. Now, when you multiply three times 80,000, that’s a quarter million, and that’s all very-close-to-the-ground work, and then we put the tractor through with a cultivator to loosen the soil. And then eventually, the tractor goes through with a V-plow, and it literally pushes dirt up onto the vines itself.
And if you look at it, if you look down the rows either side of the plants it almost looks like a big triangle of dirt that’s over the plants.
When you see that tractor going down you go, “Oh, my God, I wouldn’t want to have my leg there!” On the other hand, we know it works. In Ottawa I remember that, and you’ll remember, how cold it was the year of the polar vortex back around six, seven years ago, and we got to minus-39 Celsius.
Oh, minus-39, what is that in Fahrenheit, I’m bad at conversions, do you know?
About minus-39, I think minus-42 they cross.
Minus-39 is as cold as it gets. Where vines would die at minus-25… What it told us is that a few inches of soil over those plants allowed them to survive. Burying them all, burying them, we call it hilling-up the soil, really works. It certainly adds a lot of cost. Also, you have to be very efficient at it because the time between picking the grapes and when you can cultivate and bury your plants is very small because winter comes quickly. If your plants are not buried by November 15th, then those windows of opportunity to bury them get smaller and smaller.
Wow, that’s a good theme: winter is coming. The Game of Canes, I guess. I just want to welcome Laurie, she’s drinking a Niagara Riesling tonight with pork roast, mm-hmm. Emily, Emily, I’m sorry if I mispronounce your name, Patinode, is drinking a Prince Edward County right now, Old Third, I believe it is. Simon Wong, “Hi, Norman, will visit you soon. “From your friend, Simon.” Simon Wong, I guess you know him.
I heard that he’d moved to the Four Seasons.
Oh, excellent, terrific! And Lees is saying she’s drinking Huff Estate Riesling, “I drank all my Hardie wine so now I need to come back. “We had a lovely day on the boat in Northern Ontario today.” Excellent, Lees, so you know what? I also notice very much a collegiality between the winemakers in Prince Edward County, you seem to all support each other. I think you take the attitude of: the rising tide lifts all the boats. Anyway, that’s just my observation.
We have to.
Yeah, especially when you’re a small region, you’ve got to band together, I think, really.
Yeah, there’s no, it’s funny in the wine industry you’d expect jealousies and things, but in our community it’s amazing that if someone’s in trouble we all band together and help. It’s not easy where we are, but we’re there because the soils are so amazing and the summer climates are so incredible, especially in this day and age of climate change and global warming. We’ve got a lot going for us, but certainly, we are a young region and we need to stick together.
Absolutely, and how do you think climate change is affecting Prince Edward County? Have you seen real, tangible impacts in The County?
Well, I think we’re kind of blessed in the sense that we are right next to Lake Ontario. A lot of people don’t realize, actually, how deep Lake Ontario is, and it’s like being next to a small ocean.
How deep is it, by the way?
I don’t know, but I can tell you, you can’t swim in Lake Ontario until July 1st. I think after Lake Superior it’s the second deepest lake. Anyhow, the lake is beautiful and cold, and having that next to us has a huge mitigating effect on the super-hot days. I can certainly be at the farm and leave at plus-28, and an hour and a half later I’m in Toronto, or two hours later I’m in Toronto and it’s plus-35, plus-36.
Oh, wow, so it has that really intense cooling effect, that’s quite a delta.
Yeah, it really does, and if you’re very close to the lake… We’re close and there’s a farm that I draw some Pinot Noir from that’s right on the lake. We’re a kilometer and half from the lake, they’re right on the lake, and we get the fruit from them two weeks later, that’s the effect of it. It’s amazing.
Wow, that’s profound!
Going back to your question: how does it help us? I think having, I call it Big Blue, next to us, Lake Ontario, really has mitigated, I think, from a temperature standpoint, those super-hot summers. But I have noticed, there’s no question, when the wind blows that either it doesn’t blow at all, or it blows harder. When we get storms they tend to be a lot greater, there’s more hail, there’s more wind, so I’m finding the climate more tempestuous, and when things happen, they really happen.
Extreme weather events.
It’s more extreme weather, and sometimes prolonged events, like last summer it didn’t rain until August 3rd. This year, it rained every day until August, not quite, but you know.
Oh, it felt like it.
It felt like it. There’s no more normal I don’t find. What we have to do is we have to work very carefully with the non-normal, and work with Mother Nature, as opposed to saying, “Well, this is what Mother Nature’s going to do, “and this what we’re going to do.”
All right, okay. Romaine Gagnier is asking, “Can we get your wine in BC, Norm?”
Fortunately, today you can if you order online.
Order online, direct, okay.
And we can ship it out to BC. We don’t have distribution there because we haven’t had enough wine there, had enough wine to get there yet.
Sure, okay, and Laurie is saying, “What do you attribute your Chardonnay aromas to? “It’s a bit different from other Chards,” she’s a fan of your wine, so this comes from a good place.
Well, I’ll try to sort of squeeze a 45-minute lectureinto 30 seconds. A couple things that we do very differently, as far as Chardonnay, is we use 100% indigenous yeast, so we use yeast that come from the field, we actually culture yeast from each field each year, and I think has a huge impact. When you buy a yeast from Scott Laboratories in, there are certain yeast strains that give you certain flavor profiles. By using an indigenous yeast we certainly get a different flavor profile, that’s the first thing. The second thing is that we do ferment with a lot of solids. A lot of leaves, a lot of, when we rack our juice after pressing, and after pressing we settle the juice nicely for about five days, and when we take if off to clear the juice we take a lot of the solids from the bottom, as well. With those two, I’d say those two are the major contributors to the nose, and certainly to the texture of our wines.
Okay, great. Let’s see, Less is asking, “This summer has been so wet, “what do you predict for your 2017 vintage?”
Well, I’m predicting a lovely, dry fall, no.
I’m hoping. I think the sky has to run out of water at some point. Certainly, the last 10 days, 12 days, we’ve gone back to fairly normal rainfalls and temperatures. It’s going to be a later harvest for sure. We’re just getting véraison in our Pinots right now, so it’s going to be later. However, some of the best wines we’ve ever made have come from vintages like this, which have been sort of cold and rainy until the beginning of August, middle of August, and then it’s dried out and we’ve had a good, productive fall. The nice thing is that we can let Pinot Noir and Chardonnay hang until mid-to-late October if we have to to get it ripe, so I’m not concerned at all. I’m cautiously optimistic. In the years that we’ve had weather like this, we’ve made some of our best wine. We’re going to have to keep our head down, we’ll keep working, but it seems to work.
Okay, great, awesome! Okay, and Peter Chandler, “I just noticed that we can buy “your wines from The Wine Society this week, “which Chardonnay would you recommend: “the 2013 or the 2014?”
I think they’re both amazing. I’d say the ’13 is drinking a little bit better than the ’14 at this point.
Not to say the ’14 will end up with the same strength as the ’13, but the ’13 is in a lovely, lovely position at the moment, so if you can grab some ’13, I would. And if you can’t grab the ’13, the ’14 is equally as good, maybe you just have to store it your cellar for an extra six months or so.
Okay, awesome. Let’s see, we’ve got a few more questions here. Gail Johnson, unfortunately, she hasn’t had a chance to try Prince Edward County, she lives in Niagara and tries to support local. Prince Edward County is coming soon to her glass, to Gail Johnson’s glass, excellent! Deb Kennedy has had lots of Prince Edward County wines. And Romaine asks, “What makes your Pinot Noir “so special compared to French Burgundy Pinot Noir?”
Well, that’s another 45-minute answer!
[Natalie]Just feel free to condense.
I think one of the things we do very well, and the French do it as well, is we work very hard in our farming. Ultimately, your end result starts with the potential of your, with your grapes. And so, we’ve chosen some beautiful sites, and grow the grapes beautifully. I think what we try to do is every process is to do it perfectly and to do it well. One of things that we do have in common with the French great Pinots and Burgundy, is that we get phenolic ripeness, flavor ripeness, ahead of sugar ripeness. And with that, that allows us to get these amazing flavors with great richness without the wines being fat, and flabby, and over alcoholic.
Okay, well, good answer, okay. And let’s see, apart from, of course, tasting lots of different wines from Prince Edward County, and visiting the region, is there any other advice you’d give to our community here tonight to really get to know The County?
Well, I think visiting is certainly the best thing, The County has so much to offer. We have a great arts community, we have amazing food, we have tremendous beaches. And the reality is that we’re 4-1/2 hours from Montreal, three hours from Ottawa, and two hours from Toronto. And The County is now set up for tourists, and there’s beautiful bicycling, and so that’s the first way. And then, the second way is, obviously, if you have access to or you’re in the LCBO, certainly buying wines from their area would be very helpful, as well. And then also, that if you really like, from a flavor standpoint, you have the Town Cheese now sells their cheeses in different shops and stores like Pusateri’s, and higher-end cheese shops, and things like that. You can get a good flavor in The County, but the best thing is to come, you know? And it’s so close.
It is! And they should definitely make a pit stop at your tasting room, et cetera. You have to tell us about this outdoor pizza-making oven. First of all, where’d you get the idea to build that? And tell us about it.
About eight years ago I called up the ex-corporate Food and Beverage Director for Four Seasons. I had worked for him, I had good contact, and in all my travels he was very supportive, and communicative, and so we keep good communications. I had heard he had just retired, and I called him up and I said, “Alfons, you must be really bored at the moment, “having spent 180 days of your life in airplanes, “and now you’re stuck in Toronto, “so why don’t you come up to the farm?” And he said, “Well, I don’t know anything “about wineries or anything.” I said, “Well, Alfons, “you put two three-Michelin-Star restaurants “into one hotel in Hong Kong. “There’s some chutzpah in your head, “so come up to the farm and spend a day with us.” And at the end of the day he said, “I’m not going to tell you about your winemaking, “you’re doing really well. “I’m not going to tell you about your packaging, “it’s very good. “But I’m going to tell you the three things “that you need to do. “The first thing,” he said, “you need to, not now, “but you need to tidy-up the property, “but you don’t have anyone to do that now. “You don’t have money, and you’re particular, “and you’re small, so when you have some money do it.” Anyhow, now we paint the building, and we cut the grass, and it doesn’t look like a golf course, we’re in the country, but it’s nice and, it’s cared for. “The second thing,” he said, “you need to sell other stuff apart from wine,” and now we sell some beautiful, nice merchandise, and all local from my friends. And most it from The County, from artisans. “And the third thing,” he said, “you know, Norm, you really have to do some food, “you’re really good with food.” Well, I ran away from Four Seasons not to do food. Anyhow, he pushed it and he said, “What’s important is with food “people will remember your place, they will sit.” He said, “You have amazing energy, “you’ve got this young staff. “What you have here is magical “and you need people to sit down, “and just suck it up, and see it.” I thought long and hard about doing food, and you know, we have to realize we’re in the country, we don’t have a lot of skilled cooks, all that sort of stuff. And it was just the rise of Pizza Libretto, and their Neapolitan wood fired pizza in Toronto. Torontonians have been doing it for years, and Libretto started this slightly wider Neapolitan style. And I thought, “This is perfect. “Everyone loves pizza, “we have lots of kids, you can be kid friendly.” And I also really wanted to make my place accessible to everyone. You know, wine is a very intimidating thing, and if you make it accessible, then it’s not intimidating.
Right, and pizza is not snobby, it’s the ultimate in accessible food.
I thought, “Wine with your pizza.” I have to thank Pizza Libretto in Toronto because they are the ones that sort of tweaked the mind. And then, the other great thing is with pizza you can train people very quickly on how to make great pizza, you don’t need a super skillset. Our pizza team this year, only two of the, three of the eight in the kitchen this year were in the kitchen last year. We’ve had the best year ever, and the quality of our pizza has been best. This is not supposed to sound like an infomercial, but I’m trying to illustrate that we can train our people on making great pizza very quickly, so finding somebody–
It’s practical, yeah.
Very, from a labor standpoint and drawing upon the young kids who have low skill levels in kitchens, give them skills and do something really, really well.
That’s really smart, yeah.
And the last thing is, as I said, everyone likes pizza. Kids love pizza, adults love pizza, and the other great thing is you got to look at fires. Fire, the hearth, even in the middle of the summer people are attracted to fire, and there’s something about cooking with fire. When people see their pizza’s being cooked on fire, it kind of warms the soul.
Yeah, it’s tribal, it’s communal, everybody gathers round.
Yeah, that’s fantastic.
And also, the pizza oven’s fantastic, it really helps us cook our food a little quicker. Our staff meal at the end of the day is well worth it.
Do you have pizza every day?
No, we don’t, by this time of year everyone’s sick and tired of pizza, but I try once a week to get together with my staff at the end of the day, normally on a Monday, and cook them something out of the pizza oven. We’ll either roast some chickens in there, or whatever, and everyone loves that, as well.
They like it when the boss cooks.
-That’s great! And what are your favorite pizza and wine pairings? For example, what would you pair with your Pinot Noir, which type of pizza?
Right now, I would pair our, it’s called The Argente, and for lack of a better term, it’s the adult pepperoni pizza.
[Natalie] Why do you call it adult?
Adult, because the pepperoni, the pepperoni doesn’t come from a large manufacturer, it comes from Seed to Sausage in Ottawa.
Okay, and that makes it adult?
Well, it’s a great, it’s like a, it’s a beautifully-cured pepperoni by–
Oh, all grown-up and sophisticated?
Yeah, all the grown-up and sophisticated. And instead of using cheddar cheese or bad mozzarella, there’s a buffalo farm just north of The County in Stirling that does pure buffalo mozzarella. And we use that local pure buffalo mozzarella on that pizza, so I kind of joke that it’s the adult version of a traditional pepperoni pizza you find in pizza parlors.
I got to agree with that one, yeah, absolutely. And Laurie is asking, “What is it you like,” what do you enjoy more about winemaking than you did being a sommelier? What is the deciding factor for you?
Well, I think a couple things. I’m creating something, whereas, in sommelier you’re just judging. I also think it’s wonderful, as a sommelier, just being myself. Today I have a payroll in the summer of over 50 people. The winery has allowed us to employ 50 people of Prince Edward County that wasn’t, in the summer. But also, I love the variance of my life. If you look at being a sommelier and you choose wines, and you go to work, and you serve. What we do is we plant, we grow, we harvest, we manufacture, or we ferment. We age, we package, and we sell. There’s seven major steps in making wine, and getting it to market, and collecting the money for the wine. And in your day, my day is so varied: I could be meeting with a bottle supplier, then I’m out in the field, normally early in the morning out in the field with Mark Gilbert, my viticulturist. Meeting with a bottle supplier, and then we’ve got some clients coming. Then I could be back in Toronto and doing a meeting with some customers, or doing a winemaking, so the day is completely varied. And also, I’m a great fan of the outdoors, and being a sommelier you spend a lot of time inside. People don’t believe that I used to blow-dry my hair and wear suits. Hey, I got dressed-up today, I have a collared shirt on.
You’re looking very spiffy!
I think the variation, creating something that’s very special, taking something, like, taking a piece of earth, and taking it, and turning it into liquid in the glass.
Hmm, mm-hmm, absolutely, wow. This sort of picks-up on, I believe it’s Lynn’s question, “I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity “to try the world’s best wines. “What are the most memorable wines you’ve had?” And I would just add onto that, who is the winemaker you admire most in the world, and why? Aside from the fact they make great wines.
It’s hard to pin down one, but if I was to say one, I would say it’s a gentleman called Dean Shaw. Dean is a winemaker in New Zealand who I worked for for two seasons, and Dean is the guy I learned the most from. Dean has this magical ability to make wines really technically sound, but rustic at the same time, and he–
What does rustic mean to you? Let’s define that for a minute.
Rustic, not polished, today wines are often so polished. There’s a market for that and I think it’s important. I find that polished New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, they are very consistent year-in and year-out, and there’s a great market for those. I’ll get back to the rustic in a second.
And I’m not knocking those wines that are manufactured or those wines that are made in the same style every year to taste the same, because there’s big market out there. I had dinner with my lovely ex-wife, who is amazing. I know, a lot of people are saying, “Are you crazy?” But I have an amazing ex-wife, and she’s very well educated. We lived together for 10 years, and we drank a lot of great wines. I was over at her house having dinner with my children and I saw her drinking a fairly commercial New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. And instead of saying, “Well, why are you drinking that?” I kind of said, “Oh, you enjoy that?” And she goes, “I do.” I said, “Well, why?” She said, “Because it tastes the same all the time, it’s consistent.”
There’s a big market for consistent wines. For me, I’d rather make wines that are more of the soil, they play into the vintage, there’s an inconsistency. But there’s not an inconsistency in quality, there’s an inconsistency in you’re going to get the same flavor every year. With Dean, being able to make, he really taught me how to work with wines on the edge, to push them without them falling over. Without wines to really, how to get them to express themselves or the vintage, you know the soils, the best way they could. And always with a little bit of the scientific mind looking back. To me, I think he is pretty magical. There are a few others, I think Michael Weersing from Pyramid Valley Vineyards in New Zealand I think is another great one.
Pyramid, okay. And Dean Shaw, where was he from?
He works at the Central Otago Wine Company, which is the most unglamorous name I’ve ever heard. But he makes wines for a number of different clients, including Two Paddocks, which is Sam Neill the actor’s wine.
Who was in Dead Calm, and all kinds of other movies, and Jurassic Park, yeah.
Jurassic Park. Those are some of the best wines that come out of Central Otago, so he was a big one. I’ve worked for a lot of, I think Pascal Marchand, who I’m sure you know, he’s originally from Montreal and he’s been in Burgundy for 35 years, Pascal was a great influence. He was a huge influence in changing many approaches in Burgundy today.
And where is he now?
He works for himself, and he works with Moray Tawse, as well.
Right, they have a collaboration, but is he based in Burgundy?
He’s based in Burgundy.
Him and Moray have a collaboration, which he makes magnificent wines with. But I think in every region you got to kind of look at, I have my sort of, my favorite in each region, and you know, there are many regions. Oregon was a guy called Russ Raney, he was the guy I worked with, and he was the first person doing biodynamic and organic in–
And which winery was that?
That was called Evesham Wood. We see their wines once in a while here, but not very often.
No, right, exactly. All right, so now I should before, I don’t want to run out of time here, we should just taste, which wine do you have there, Norm? I’ve got some Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.
Oh, excellent! What a happy coincidence, so do I!
There ya go.
Which one should we start with first?
Why don’t we start with a little bit of Riesling?
I don’t know that.
All right. Okay, here’s the Riesling, folks, and I have posted all of these wines and the link to them in the comment section below. Let me know if you’ve tasted any of these, I’d be curious if anybody’s had experience with any of the wines we’re tasting tonight, so the Riesling’s up first. Is this a blend, it just says Ontario, so does that mean it’s a blend from various vineyards around?
This is a blend of Niagara and Prince Edward County.
It’s one of the few, one of the few varieties that I actually do a blend, I normally bottle County separately, and Niagara separately. This is the one where I feel the sum of the parts are greater than the individuals. The County gives us beautiful minerality and lemon-lime, and then the Niagara just sort of softens the edges, it gives them sort of richer fruits. You kind of get this freshness, but a nice richness at the same time.
It’s beautiful, wow.
And this Riesling: 11-1/2% alcohol, so nice and low.
I know, I love that! It’s packed with flavor, which satisfies hedonists, and yet, this low alcohol makes it enjoyable throughout the evening, as opposed to falling asleep at 7:00. Ya know?
Exactly! Or waking up and having to drink some more, ya know?
I haven’t done that yet, but I’ll take that under advisement. But this is just beautiful, it’s vibrant, it’s light but so characterful, flavorful.
I have a lovely, very quick story on this.
We never used to make Riesling, and when I first came to Ontario, I was going to just produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and then I realized very quickly what potential we had for Riesling both in The County, and then also seeing what they were doing in Niagara, and so I thought, “I have to make some Riesling in Ontario.”
Having been just a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay house, it was a big step. And what really helped us was when Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown was in Montreal. They were sitting on the ice rink behind Joe Beef, and then on national television, out of their ice bucket came this bottle of Norman Hardie Riesling.
And then David McMillan poured Anthony a glass, and Bourdain goes, “What is this?” And David goes, “It’s Norman Hardie’s Riesling, “it’s just grown four hours from here.” And he goes, “That’s impossible, it’s so delicious, “give me another glass,” down the hatch!
What an endorsement! Anthony Bourdain tells it like it is, Mr. Kitchen Confidential, and of course, he’s got the TV shows not, but wow!
And what came out of that was, obviously, it gave us great credibility in what we did, but our New York agent who sold up here Warren Chardonnay, never used to take our Riesling, and they’re going, “Oh, no, no, Pinot Noir and Chardonnays really do well.” The next day we got an order from him.
And then about eight weeks later, Eric Asimov from The New York Times is in another wine bar in Tribeca and tastes it, and pulls-out his camera and Instagram’s it to the world. The Riesling has gone from zero cases to a very important part of what we do.
Wow, is that that wine bar run by, what’s his name? He was a former Canadian?
Is that where it was?
It was there, Terroir, he’s been a good–
Good on Paul, he really is a great advocate for Rieslings and Canada.
Yeah, he’s got Riesling tattooed all over his arm.
I know, he’s a bit crazy, but we should have him on this show, actually. Okay, so this is beautiful. Let’s make sure, though, that we taste the others, shall we go to the Chardonnay next? Is that…
That’s good, let’s go to some Chardonnay.
Okay, let me show it to the folks. And again, the links are below in the comment section, has anyone had the Chardonnay from Norm Hardie? We are tasting Niagara, of course he produces one in The County. This might be a good segway to say why we’re not tasting County wines tonight, even though we’re talking County, Norm?
Well, I’ve always firmly believed the best wines have always been made on the edge, and going to The County that’s what it is. And one of being on the edge is frost, it’s a reality. And in 2015 on May 23rd we had a killer frost that came through, and it pretty much took the whole crop.
The whole crop?
You had nothing, virtually nothing?
10% of what we normally do.
Oh, that is just terrible.
That’s one of the many reasons why I Use Niagara fruits, as well. But also, I also like to put in the perspective is that I think, you know, you kind of look at Niagara as Sonoma and Napa. And if you were in Napa, and someone offered you some of the most amazing fruit from Sonoma, would you say, “No”? Absolutely not! Now, I feel very strongly about both appellations, the wineries in Prince Edward County. But I think we make some amazing wines from Niagara, as well. I do feel very blessed to be in The County because it is just such a beautiful place, one of the reasons why I ended up in The County is I knew I wanted to make Niagara grapes, but if I was in Niagara I could never get County fruit.
But if I had gone to The County and planted my own vineyards there then I was at least guaranteed some County fruits, and then I could contract in or, we actually lease a lot of properties so we grow everything to our specs in Niagara. A long story short, is that I think it’s some of the best sites, we have years when we have tremendous frosts or mitigate, like every farmer, you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
And you know, if we had been 100% County we would never been able to get the quality fruits we needed in ’15 from Niagara.
That’s smart. It’s like an investment strategy, a portfolio, a diversification.
Grapes and stocks, this is lovely. I always love the hazelnut on the nose, and just the richness. And yet, it’s got this nervy energy through it too, it’s just lovely, how would you describe it?
Well, I think we kind of make Chardonnay for people who traditionally don’t like Chardonnay.
Mm-hmm, how is that?
Well, a lot of people don’t like Chardonnay because a lot of the New World Chardonnays are made with bigger oak, very oily, very soft, very round. Whereas, now Chardonnay’s a lot more traditional, and sort of a Dundee model. They’re not oaky, they’re not round, they’re not soft, and there’s a great nervousness to our Chardonnays, there’s a great energy. And there’s a richness in flavor without the wines being oily and fat.
Yeah, wines on the edge of a nervous breakdown. People are interesting like that, too. You want to get them just before they go over the edge.
Best story, so folks, I am not ignoring your comments, we’re having such a great conversation, but repost your questions and comments if I miss them, ’cause I can only see four or five at a time, and they’re going by quite quickly. Jen has joined us, “What a great story. “Your Riesling, Norm, is wonderful, “so glad it’s getting recognition.” Lees says, “I saw Norm tank a beer I brought to him, “he’s my kind of guy!” Okay, and Lees is saying, “His unfiltered Chardonnay is one her faves.” Laurie, she’s had both your Chardonnays and Pinots from the Niagara and The County, so she’s tasted widely. All right,let’s make sure we also taste this Pinot, Norm. I’m going to hold that one up. I love your Pinots, personally, I’m a Pinot fan, that’s what I drink for pleasure. Yours especially.
It is my… It is my favorite red wine, and I have to say.
Yeah, absolutely. What is it about Pinot that you’re drawn to, other than, perhaps, being a masochist who likes to flirt with…
Well, you took my first answer right away.
Oh, sorry, sorry.
You know, there’s something about Pinot… Once it catches you, you’re kind of done. Your life will happier, but you’ll be somewhat poorer financially.
It’s like a bad boyfriend, they just keep coming back! It’s like, “Stop!”
Stop, not only this, but there’s something intrinsic you like about them. You know, when Pinot is great, it is so lovely. And then, so you buy some and you go, “Oh, there must be some others,” you know? And you can go through 10 bad ones until you find another great one. When Pinot is, like great Chardonnay, there’s a great richness, there’s a delicacy, there’s a length in these wines, without the wines being oily, and fat, and boring, and tiring, and fatiguing. For me, a great Pinot is one that is amazing with food. While preparing dinner you may actually have to get a second bottle because the first one disappears.
I know, that’s weird. I don’t know if it’s slippery or what. Deb Kennedy says, “Having had several of Norm’s Chardonnays “from Niagara and The County, love them all.” “Among my favorites, “but the favorite is the Cuvee de Roche.” Rache? Roche?
Cuvee de Roche, yeah.
What’s that? I actually haven’t heard of that one, so the de Roche.
Well, once in a while we make some, I call them unicorn wines, they don’t happen very often. Cuvee de Roche, it’s a Niagara, mainly made out of Niagara fruits, it was a ferment that was tremendously difficult. It was one of those ones where we are fighting the edge and kind of feeling all the way through the ferment we were like on a precipice, and our fingers were about to just slip, and we were about to go down the edge. And at the last, last moment after maybe eight months in the barrel, the wine just turned around, and it was so lovely, and it ends up being, we call it Cuvee de Roche because it actually tastes like rocks, it so mineral.
Roche, oh, so the French word for rocks, Roche?
Rocks, yeah, le Roche.
The French word for rocks is le Roche so, I mean, we… Because it was so mineral, it’s almost, you sip it and imagine sipping water that just came off the face of a waterfall, that’s how pure and mineral it tastes.
But I hate to say, there’s not much of that left.
It was a unicorn wine, and we’ll most surely make another one down the road but–
Mother Nature will determine that, not me.
Okay, so you’re taking us to the edge of, and no, you can’t have it.
No, there’s a little bit that you can order online, there’s a little bit, but not much left.
Okay, all right. We will post your website address and all of those good details at the end so that people can contact the winery directly to order whatever it is you have left. I’m sure we’ll clear the shelves tonight. Paul, let’s see, oh! Paul says, “There’s a phenomenon of natural evaporation “that occurs only with Pinot Noir,” have you found that?
No, I haven’t, I’d love to, I got to look that up. Oh, the natural evaporation in the glass, yep.
Yes, when the wine’s good, sometimes I think I have a hole in my glass, as well,
I know! I think I’m buying the same glassware.
Yeah, I think so.
I got to get a different supplier.
We buy expensive glassware but, yeah.
Hmm. Mark Sevard says, “Do you have any other “special wines coming up?” Any special edition wines that you’re making, or planning to make right now?
Yeah, we’ve done a couple things particularly this year. We make our wines in a very natural approach, and natural yeasts, and very low sulfurs, and we’ve jut released two wines that had zero sulfur, never had any sulfur. They’re called, it’s a Chardonnay ‘Sans Soufre’, and we did a Cabernet Franc ‘Sans Soufre’.
What does Sans Soufre mean?
Sans Soufre means without sulfur.
And with that, it’s interesting, when I was doing the labeling, I had one of my French employees proofread it, and they said, “Are you making a wine,” because we spelled it with a double-F, “without suffering?”
Not possible, anyhow, so Chardonnay Sans Soufre. These wines are brand new to us and are very exciting as we sort of move, we’ve always worked with very little sulfur, and now we’ve had the ability, once in a awhile Mother nature gives us this chance to work with wine and have zero sulfur in there.
Excellent, and will these wines without sulfur, will they cellar, will they keep, will they travel? Or, should they be sort of consumed pretty soon on purchase?
I would say they’re delicious now, and because they don’t have sulfur they might have a, their lifespan’s not going to be as long.
I always say, especially these wines, “Drink them young.”
They’re delicious. They still will be good for another year, year-and-a-half, but I always say, “Drink wine on the way up.” There seems to be a nice, slow curve to the top, and then a very–
And then it just.
Steep going over at the bottom, so it’s always best to catch it on the way up.
Yeah, absolutely, like people, again. Anyway, do you also make an orange wine?
We have made two, last year.
And what are they called?
One is called Cuvee Ponton. Ponton is a play on a small, what is it? I want to say, barge, it’s not quite the word translated. It’s just a nice, very flat boat that you see on the lake system, and we call it Cuvee Ponton because that’s the one when you’re sitting on the lake, and you’re fishing, and you’re really not catching very much because you’d rather be drinking the wine.
As an excuse.
That was a Pinot Gris which we had on the skins for about 10 days before we pressed off. And then, the other one that we’re going to be releasing is called Cuvee Tornado.
And there’s a great story behind this. When the first lot of Pinot Gris came in last year, we loaded the press and then this tornado watch came. We literally, we started pressing, and then the winds came up and I was getting nervous and there was a real threat of tornado and these high winds, so I said to the staff, “We’re going to shut the press. “We’re going to enter the juice tray, “we’re going to cover the press with a tarp for the night. “And we’re going to turn off the power because “the three-phase is a dangerous thing with tornadoes.” The next morning we came back, and we started the press up, and this beautiful skin-macerated juice came out of the press and I thought, “Well, I’m not going to throw this out, “I’m going to try and do something interesting.” We put the juice to some old French oak barrels, and they fermented naturally on their own, so it’s going to be called Cuvee Tornado because…
It was a bit of an accident, but it’s worked out really well.
Accidents are how we get most of the inventions and new ideas in life, so yeah, that’s a unicorn wine for sure.
That’s the unicorn wine for sure.
Yeah, absolutely, Anne Marie Chivers is here, so welcome Anne Marie. She was asking Pinot Noir, or Pinot Gris, I’m not sure, clarify your question there, Anne Marie, it’s so good to have you here with us. Norm, some quick questions for you, what’s the Normitory?
Okay, so the Normitory was a, we had a lot of volunteers and good will people who wanted to come and help. We still have a bunk room, it used to have 18 beds in it, I think it was like nine double bunks, and it was literally like staying, like being in the military, except for the food and the wine was way better. And the curfew didn’t tend to be, the start time is about the same, about 5:30/6:00, except for there was no curfew, and the finish time often used to be about 3:00 in the morning because–
Oh, my goodness!
But volunteers so–
They were helping you pick grapes?
They helped us picked grapes–
And so, you give them a bed.
Yeah, I give ’em a bed, or they helped us during the year at tasting bar, pizza oven, whatever we needed. We have had a huge, huge support of friends, and so that’s where the, instead of the dormitory, it’s called the Normitory.
Normitory, I like it, that’s great!
It’s like an adult frat house, you know?
A resort with nothing included. Let me just throw some wild zingers at you. What is the harshest criticism you’ve received about your wines?
Well, I used to take it personally, but some of the greatest wines I have difficulty getting through the VQA because they don’t smell, or taste like Ontario.
Okay. Why is that?
Well, I think the box in which the tasters have been sort of trained to taste and what to look for is fairly narrow, and our wines fall outside of the boxes there. I used to take it very personally, and over time your skin gets thick. Fortunately, eventually through many tasting battles, and hundreds of extra dollars, we’ve always managed to get our wines through, one way or another. I guess those are the ones that used to hurt the most. I hear sometimes, a lot of, you know, when people say, “Your wine’s not oaky enough,” I would never take that as a criticism, that’s the style of wine you like and we do something differently. In this business you tend to have to have a bit of Teflon on your body, otherwise you don’t survive.
Well, you’re a cool climate winemaker, so you would naturally have thicker skin.
I certainly do, a thicker skin and my stomach seems to be thicker every year.
-It’s good protection, Norm, it’s good for you. What’s one thing that you believe right now that other people think is insane?
Well… I think in what we’re doing, I think that a lot of people still think we’re insane in what we’re doing. You know, on what we’re pushing the boundaries. I think like, for example, doing the no sulfur they thought we were insane. I would like to see… What I think is insane in our industry is that I think there needs to be more opportunity for the winemakers to, how would I say this? Experiment more. I think we’re sort of, unfortunately, held back by the VQA panel. If we look at Australia, for example, about four years ago they got rid of their panel. And four years ago you couldn’t find Australian wines on a wine list. Today, all of a sudden, we’re starting to see Australian wines on the wine list. I attribute a lot of that to the Australian winemakers now being able to experiment a lot more. I’m very much in favor of getting rid of the tasting panel because at this stage, the tasting panel was good, it got Ontario wines up to a standard. But at this point, it’s time for the winemakers to be able to determine what the tailwater says, and not the bureaucrats.
Interesting, that’s really good, good insight. We are already at 7:00. We’ve had a great conversation, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention now?
Yeah, I think, I was looking at the Canadian wine industry and where we are, and I think we’re in a very, very blessed place where we have cool climates and amazing soils, and I encourage everyone to drink as much Canadian wine as possible, whether it’s from BC or it’s from here. And then the other industry that I think really needs our great support, and I see a complete parallel with the wine industry, is getting Canadians to eat Canadian cheeses, we make amazing cheeses in this country. I know why we don’t: because cheese is often like a special occasion event, and what do we do? We buy cheese of great memories when we were in Italy and France, so we buy those cheeses. But we should be more open to it, like everyone’s starting to drink more Canadian wines, and trust me, I’d love everyone to drink Canadian wine every night. We are going in the right direction with that and hopefully, people will change their mind about Canadian cheeses, we sell amazing cheese, as well.
Absolutely, wow, what a good note to end on. Where can we get in touch with you online? How best can wefind you and the winery and order your wines, Norm?
Well, our website is fairly easy, we kept it simple: NormanHardie.com, and that’s Hardie, with an I-E, dot-com.
We also have some very good distribution in the LCBO, not all our wines, but in the major stores you can find our wines, as well. And then, as I said, come to Prince Edward County, come to Niagara, well, certainly come to Prince Edward County, my winery. But finding great Ontario wines, a great way to go is to go and visit the wine country. We’re so close, you don’t have to fly to Europe. Come and sit on my patio, have some pizza, drink some wine, and you don’t have to go all the way to Naples!
There’s no excuse folks, there is no excuse.
And the best part, when you go home you don’t have to go past Immigration with that case of wine in your car!
No questions, you can take it home to your basement free of, not free of charge, but free of extra taxes, there ya go.
See? What more do you need? Really, Norm, this has been fantastic! Thank you so much for joining us tonight, and for your time.
Oh, it’s been great.
Great stories, great questions and answers. I mean, I feel like we’ve learned a lot tonight about Prince Edward County. There’s a reason why you have that cult-following, so I appreciate this, and we do, thank you.
My pleasure, and happy Sunday!
All right, take care!
All right, take care.
We’ll talk to you soon.
Buh-bye. Okay guys, I’m going to stay online for a bit longer now. That wine, wow, what a great conversation! If you would take a moment right now, post in the comments below: what is the most interesting thing that you learnt tonight? I would love to know because I go back to these chats and things, and look at your comments. Norm will be back in here, by the way, and talking about, or answering your questions, that sort of thing. So please, even if you’re watching the replay, post your comments and questions, what single thing did you find most valuable about tonight’s conversation? I’d love to know. If you’ve still got a question, post it below for Norm, he’ll be back in here tonight or tomorrow. Also, next week, we will be joined by Caroline Leblanc from Torres Winery in Chile, sorry, Spain, Spain. Torres, they do have some wineries in Chile, but a terrific winery, completely different focus next week, so you’re not going to want to miss that at 6:00 PM Eastern, Toronto/New York time. What else? You can always find upcoming episodes and previous episodes on the link that I’ve posted below. I’d love to know if you have suggestions for upcoming guests, I would love to know. What should we cover, what should we be doing? And lastly,if you enjoyed this conversation, if you found value, if you think even one friend of yours would love to watch the replay, please take a moment to share our video. That’s that little arrow that does this, it really helps get this video into the newsfeed of everyone who loves wine. It encourages me, as a juice monkey, to keep doing these shows for you, and I just think more people need to know about this. We’re having some great conversations here, let’s share it! So, share! All right, folks, thank you so much, I really appreciate youputting us into your calendar on Sundays, 6:00 PM Eastern, New York/Toronto time. We go live every Sunday, it’s a regular thing, it’s informal, pour yourself a glass of wine, join us here, and I will see you next week, take care.