The turbulent, not so distant, European past displaced many people – many of which found a new home on the North American continent. The Kocsis family, parents Andy and Klara with two sons Andre and young Steve, emigrated from Hungary in 1956 and having been farmers in the old country, they settled in the farmlands of Beamsville. In 1958, they purchased a 40 acre mixed fruit farm, whose fertile land was already planted with concord grapes, pears (both still present today), peaches, apricots and cherries, whose sale for direct consumption allowed the family to derive their living.
In 1983, Steve Kocsis, who worked these lands since the age of nine, took over the proprietorship and established The Mountain Road Wine Company. He remembered that in the old Europe, many vineyards grew on slopes overlooking bodies of water, whether being lakes or the sea. To transcend this image through a name and coincident with the name of the local road, he named his new venture the Mountain Road Wine Company.
Though planting the first Vitis vinifera in 1981, Mountain Road Wine Company sold grapes to nearby wineries (mainly Thirty Bench Wine Makers) for eighteen years. It wasn’t until 1999, when the first vintage of Vidal Icewine was produced, but it would take another three years until a permit to sell wine would be obtained.
Rustic feeling manifests as an old oak tree and a half-buried barn welcome you.
Steve considers himself the “steward of the land” having a basic philosophy
of “minimal intervention in the vineyard and the winery” and
by implementing “long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes”, which include abstaining from fertilizers and pesticides.
Steve Kocsis owns four vineyards: two 20-acre Estate Vineyards, 11.2 acre Hillside Drive Farm and 11 acre Fly Road Vineyard.
The two 20-acre Estate Vineyard is part of the same land on which Kocsis’ home + retail store and the winery stand on. It is located on the southern edge of Beamsville and belongs to an area that bares the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation designation. In 1981, 13 acres of one of the 20 acre parcels was stripped of an old orchard and was replanted with 6 acres of Chardonnay, 4 acres of Vidal and 3 acres of Gamay; the 6 untouched acres still have an old pear orchard. In 1997, the other 20 acre parcel was planted with 2 acres each of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling – white grape varieties; and Merlot, Syrah, both Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon as well as 4.5 acres of Pinot Noir – red grape varieties.
The 11.2 acre Hillside Drive Farm, also located in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation, was planted in 1996 with 2 acres of Chardonnay – white grape variety; and 1.5 acres of Riesling and 2 acres of Cabernet Franc – red grape varieties. The remaining 6 acres have a pear orchard.
Located more south, on top of the escarpment, in the nearby Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation, is the 11 acre Fly Road Vineyard planted in 1996 with 4 acres subdivided between Vidal – white grape variety; Baco Noir and Marechal Foch – red grape varieties. The property also grows 7 acres of Concord grape belonging to the Vitis labrusca family (planted between the years of 1930 to 1940) that is sold for direct consumption or for production of Welch’s grape juice, jams and jellies.
To produce grapes with maximal fruit intensity, the vines are under-drained to promptly remove rain water; and as Deborah Paskus originally recommended, vines are cropped so that the yields are between 1.5 – 2 tons per acre for Chardonnay, while other varieties yield 2 to 3 tons per acre; also, grapes are left to ripen longer into the season.
Six successive Vidal Icewine vintages,
starting with the 1999 Lt-Governor’s Award Winner all the way to 2004.
At the winery’s beginnings, years 1999 and 2000, Steve consulted Deborah Paskus and Jim Warren for their winemaking skills, while taking upon-himself the task of winemaking. Needing a hand, in 2001 Jon Witkowski was hired as the assistant winemaker and helped to craft wines for 4 years. Once Jon left in 2005, Steve’s son Richard became the assistant winemaker and is one of four people along with two seasonal workers who form the dedicated crew responsible for the entire operation.
Vidal Icewine inventory and prices – spring 2013.
Steve’s philosophy is to age the 100% estate-grown wines for at least 5 years before their release and prides himself on having wines for sale that are more than a decade old. To let the wines evolve, French, American and Central European Oak barrels are often used before bottling. The winery specializes on the production of aged Vidal and Cabernet Franc Icewines, with the latest releases being a 9-year old Vidal and 11-year-old Cabernet Franc. Other wines of fucus are oaked and un-oaked Chardonnays and Rieslings crafted in three styles: dry, semi-sweet and – grapes are allowed to become infected with Botrytis cinerea, a benign type of fungus, also called Noble Rot, that affects grapes during wet harvest season. It causes the grapes to dry out and hence is utilized to concentrate the fruit flavors within to produce sweeter, fruit-intense wines. Wine growing regions utilizing this natural process include Tokaj in Hungary or Sauternais in France.
The winery typically produced 2 to 3,000 cases of wine, but recently increased the production to 4 to 5 thousand cases by using grapes that were previously sold elsewhere.
– The boutique shop is open daily:
Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.
Sunday & holidays from 11 am to 5 pm.
– Complimentary tastings of all wines including Icewines.
– Free tours for small or larger groups.
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I would like to thank Steve Kocsis for talking with me, taking me around the vineyard and letting me sample his wines.
For recommended wines that can be purchased at the winery, see http://grapeselections.com/grapeselections/wines-from-wineries/
For other wineries in the Beamsville Bench Appellation
and the rest of Niagara Peninsula see
Location and growing characteristics:
Beamsville Bench sub-appellation has these characteristics important for wine growth: 217 days/year that are frost-free; 1420 growing degree days and precipitation of 544 mm/year. The soil is composed of clay loam and silty loam that contributes towards the wine’s minerality composition.
Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation has these characteristics important for wine growth: 178 days/year that are frost-free; 1357 growing degree days and precipitation of 578 mm/year. The soil is composed mainly of clay loam till and Lacustrine silty clay that contribute towards the wine’s minerality composition.
Note: Values represent yearly averages normal for the Niagara Peninsula; information mentioned here as well as the Appellations map was obtained from http://vqaontario.ca and is used with permission.
The Mountain Road Wine Company
4016 Mountain Rd