September 02, 2014

Domaine Perrault - a little Ottawa area winery with big personality

For a really nice Ottawa area outing, set  the GPS to 1000 Perrault Road, Navan, home of the delightful Domaine Perrault Winery.
The winery started up in 1999, and now has six acres of vines and about 6000 plants. Although grapes are brought in from Niagara to produce some of the more traditional, familiar wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Malbec, and red blends, it is the interesting range of cold climate varietals groomed to handle Ottawa winters, that produce some very tasty and interesting wines at Perrault.
When I visited about seven years ago, shortly after the wine retail store opened, I left with one bottle of wine. This weekend, I left with ten, and almost none were made from "common or garden" varietals. Grape varietals like Frontenac Gris, Louise Swanson, Marquette, Saint Pepin and others have been craftily grown and tested, and some are offered as straight varietal wines, allowing unique opportunities to taste something different from the norm. The winemaker behind all this magic is Bernard Martineau, an oenologist with 40 years of experience.
There are 14 or 15  wines available for tasting - pretty much the entire collection and, here's the thing. There's no fee for tasting, and no requirement - implied or otherwise - to buy any of the wines. Instead, there's a delightful atmosphere in the little tasting room, kind of like dropping in to visit some friends. I would bet money that no-one leaves that place without buying something, especially since the wines are eminently affordable. Perfect marketing, perfect customer service.
Julie Ricard is the super-friendly, knowledgeable, competent  sommelier/host/Jill of all trades who runs the visitor centre, pours the wine, delivers the wine-speak, handles group events, liaises with the outside world and, in short, seems invaluable. It was super busy when we were there, and although Julie seemed highly capable of juggling multiple balls and knowing who needed to taste what next, Denis Perrault, ("I'm just the owner") was helping out and pretty much manning the cash register the whole time - a comforting job for an owner of a small Domaine!
We took a quick look around the winery - a tiny, wee, climate controlled, multi-purpose building that leaves you shaking your head wondering how they can produce 23,000 bottles a year. But they do, and most of that is sold at the winery.
Some personal favourites.............
Zanibel - An off dry white with delicious aromas and flavours of fresh pears and other tree fruits, perfectly balanced with the right amount of acidity to balance the slight sweetness. $14
Gabrielle - a dry, medium bodied red made with the Marquette grape; aromas and flavours of ripe red fruit and  toffee cooking on the stove; unusual and delicious; nicely balanced, good for sipping in these dog days of summer, and a good food wine. $16
Marilys - a rich, fruity rosé, strawberry jam and a bit of that same toffee I detected in the Gabrielle. Perhaps I was just having a  toffee day! In any event, lovely nose and flavours, a full bodied rosé, versatile $15
Go visit Perrault. You won't be disappointed and I'm certain you won't leave empty-handed. Groups are also welcome for special occasion tastings at very affordable prices.