I’d met winemaker Dan Sullivan once before this get together at Rosehall for the official ‘chat, taste and shoot’ with our wine writer, Kirstyn Mayers. It was an actual thrill to see him again—he cuts a meaningful figure: tall and characteristic, with a casual shaggy hairstyle and kind of chilled out frontier-meets-biker attire. And just like in our last meeting, I was impressed by his unique brand of keen, but gentle smarts, set against so much ‘look’.
Dan and Lynn founded 150-acre Rosehall Run in the fall of 2000. They began by planting Pinot and Chardonnay in 2001, making the farm one of the earliest Prince Edward County wineries established in Hillier. Today these vines are joined by Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Tempranillo on 25 acres of vines.
And when Rosehall launched their 2005 Pinot Noir, the wine world started to take note of both the estate’s Pinot Noirs and Chards. Fast forward more than a decade and this winery has gone from strength to strength, expanding in varietals and methods and, as the tasting notes on Rosehall’s complement of sparkling wines confirm, there’s some notable stuff happening here.
With a background in chemistry, Dan began winemaking as a self-described “serious amateur”. He spent fifteen years learning about the craft while racking up amateur accolades, before he set out to grow and make his own estate wines in Prince Edward County. Dan is the kind of guy you can chat with all day, and we talk about the eighteen years of County growing that followed and the more than 1000 lots of wine he’s put out into the world. We ask about his favourite years and he explains that every year is different—the conditions are different, the experience is different, and so the wine is different. It’s my first insight into what it means to make wine in the County, a glimpse of the challenges and the triumphs that our winemakers have to face.
Recognized as one of the region’s top winemakers, Dan is also known for sharing the love, collaborating with numerous industry peers in the community to continually elevate the County’s gastro profile. His partner Lynn is the managing Partner of Rosehall. She’s also awesome—fun, charming and a pleasure to taste wine with. Lynn is active on the board for wine and culinary tourism in The County, oversees all the executive functions of the winery and manages Rosehall’s tasting bar and grocer, among other things.
Rosehall makes five to six thousand cases of estate wine every year, offering a broad selection to meet the expectations and tastes of a broad audience. “Some tourists come to have a fun tasting and want to take home a souvenir,” Dan says, “others want a deeper, more authentic wine experience. We have all of that.”
Dan stresses the pragmatics of winemaking. “Our core focus is small lot wines. We grow in a measured way, so we know there’s demand.” In the County, a region that purportedly sells almost all that the winemakers produce but has difficulty achieving the economies of scale that other global producers enjoy—this seems like a reasonable approach.
And for all of the starry-eyed upstarts dreaming of throwing in the proverbial towel in exchange for the picturesque life of winemaking? Dan offers the insight of an amateur turned pro. “If you want immediate gratification in wine—stick to drinking it.”
—Lonelle Selbo (Story, Photography)
By Kirstyn Mayers
NV Rosehall Run Pixie
VQA Ontario | 11.0% abv | 750 ml $19.95
This wine is a fun, pink, bubbly under $20 but it is also very, very tasty. Beautiful salmon colour with grapefruit and peach aromatics that are fresh but not cloying. The palate is slightly off-dry but wonderfully balanced with high acidity. A County sparkling at this price point is a find on its own, the fact that it’s also delicious is icing on the frothy pink cake. (Tasted 01.02.18)
2016 Rosehall Run Indigo
VQA Ontario | 12.2% abv | 750ml $24.95
This perfumed blend combines some of my favourite aromatic whites: Muscat Ottonel, Chardonnay Musqué, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. The nose is far from a traditional style sparkling, with lots of lychee, spice, and lush tropical fruit that carries over to the palate. There’s amazing texture from tight, fine bubbles. This is the sparkling you want to serve with dessert. (Tasted 03.18.18)
NV Rosehall Run Ceremony Blanc de Blancs (Brut)
VQA Prince Edward County | 12.2% abv | 750ml $34.95
A beautiful Blanc de Blancs that tastes right at home with some pricier bottles from France. There’s notes of baked apple with cinnamon and spices on the nose. I love the autolytic flavours that come out in good traditional method sparkling wines, and this one has some lovely brioche and honey on the palate. Crisp acidity and a lovely mousse round out this balanced non-vintage sparkler. (Tasted 03.18.18)
2011 Rosehall Run Stardust Brut Cuvée
VQA Prince Edward County | 12.2% abv | 750ml $49.95
Delicate and nuanced aromatics with some atypical fruit character coming from extended lees contact. Soft fruit and bread combine into a distinct lemon cake flavour. Bone dry with great minerality, there’s the right structure and mouthfeel to balance out the ripe, almost tropical fruit notes. (Tasted 03.18.18)
Kirstyn Mayers’ passion for wine started in 2007 when she joined Norman Hardie Winery. The only employee of the fledgling winery, she quickly became immersed in all aspects of the business. Over the next six years she helped out in the cellar, learned to cook alongside some of the amazing chefs that frequented the winery on their days off, and tasted a lot of really great wine with a lot of really knowledgeable people. Rounding out her informal tasting education with classes through the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers and an Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirit Education Guild, Kirstyn shares her continued wine adventures in Prince Edward County as Au Lait Magazine’s wine columnist.