When we sat down to sketch out our strategy for Au Lait’s county wine column, wine writer Kirstyn Mayers and I both scrawled Trail Estate right away onto the top of our lists. Trail’s winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois, was one of the first people I met in the County on a press trip in early 2014. Mackenzie is smart, she’s cool, and she has a wicked twinkle in her eye. Lately, Trail Estate Winery has been getting a lot of press and we’re excited to sit down and taste what she’s working on.
All fourteen acres of Trail Estates were bought in 2011 by Anton and Hildegard Sproll. A German couple, transplanted to Kitchener-Waterloo, the Sprolls founded and ran a successful and innovative bakery for 30 years. With an inherent love of growing and creating, they came to The County looking for an acre of Baco Noir vines and a dream. They planted another five and a half acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Baco Noir, hired a winemaker to get them started and launched their first vintage in 2013—opening the tasting room doors the following year. The second generation Sprolls, Alex and Sylvia, manage the marketing and accounting, while Mackenzie took over as Trail Estate’s winemaker in 2015. Here is our interview with Mackenzie, who, we’re pretty confident, is a rising star in the wine world.
How did you get started?
“I actually got interested in wine while going to university” Mackenzie says. “I worked at a winery one summer break and remember peering down into the cellar, looking at the processing. It all seemed much more interesting than pouring wine and giving tours. My degree was in Biology and English and I could see a lot of both in wine. Eventually I went back to school to Niagara College in the Winery and Viticulture Technician program.”
So you earned your stripes in the classroom as well as the field?
“I worked lightly in a few wineries in Niagara, but mostly front of house during my studies. Eventually, I started working in the cellar at Norman Hardie and really fell in love with the food, the wine and the culture. It was a special time at the winery and everyone was so excited to be a part. I got the opportunity to drink amazing wines and Norm put me in charge of his vineyards after only a couple years. As the winery was growing bigger I ended up getting more and more responsibility in all aspects of the business.”
How did you find your way to Trail Estate Winery?
Eventually I accepted a position helping my friends start their vineyard and winery in Nanaimo (Chateau Wolff). It was a contract position and so it was lucky timing that I ended up at Trail Estate. One thing that is amazing is the freedom I have to really craft wines. It feels like we are doing something special.
(Alex Sproll chimes in “—Our winery is very active in the skin contact and orange wine segments. Mackenzie started this in 2015 and we have now made around ten wines like this and it was about one third of our production last year. She also sits on the advisory committee for these wines.”)
How do you balance work and play?
I grew up in Prince Edward County, but over the years I also got away to work harvests in South Africa and New Zealand. I even met my husband in South Africa while working harvest. Having now started a family it’s so amazing to have them close. As you can imagine, growing grapes and making wine is more than a full time job, so I couldn’t do it without them.
Best-sellers and personal faves?
What’s Trail Estate excited about right now?
By Kirstyn Mayers
2016 Trail Estate Gewürztraminer Oak-Aged
VQA Ontario | 10.5% abv | 750ml $30.00
Aged in neutral barrels, this Gewürztraminer has a strong honeysuckle aroma with virtually no perceptible oak on the nose. The palate is dry with flavours of orange peel and honey with a long, lingering finish. There’s good structure here, provided by moderate acidity and a fair amount of minerality. Trail Estate has really nailed this varietal with their series of skin-fermented and oak-aged wines. Even if you weren’t a Gewürztraminer fan in the past—this bottle makes it worth a revisit. (Tasted 10.18.18)
2017 Trail Estate Pétillant Naturel
9.5% abv | 750ml $35.00
This naturally sparkling orange wine made from County grapes is at the height of current wine trends. It’s cloudy, fizzy, exuberant, and fun! The nose has lots of orange skin and floral, and the palate is dry with lots of bright, fresh, orange soda flavour. The racy acidity and short clean finish make this an interesting wine to pair with rich, creamy dishes like Alsatian Tarte Flambée or seafood pasta in a cream sauce. Drink young and consume quickly after opening. (Tasted 03.18.18)
2015 Trail Estate Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard Unfiltered
VQA Twenty Mile Bench | 11.0% abv | 750ml $30.00
The neutral oak aging imparts some beautiful aromatics more commonly seen in older Rieslings. There’s honey, melon, and a bit of white peach on the nose. The palate is bone dry, with some nice structure and texture from the barrel and extended lees contact. If you like this wine, look out for the release of the 2016, which keeps some of the same aromatics but opens up to a much more rich and luscious palate. (Tasted 03.18.18)
2015 Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered
VQA Lincoln Lakeshore | 12.2% abv | 750ml $35.00
There’s a sharp gunflint aroma that I love finding in Niagara Chardonnays, with some toasty notes from new and old French barrels. Beautiful texture and rich mouthfeel are complemented by medium acid levels. Lovely spiced baked apple flavours come out on the finish, which is long and clean. This would taste amazing with smoked chicken and grilled vegetables drizzled with truffle oil. (Tasted 03.18.18)
2015 Trail Estate Cabernet Franc
VQA Twenty Mile Bench | 13.5% abv | 750ml $45.00
True to varietal typicity, this Cabernet Franc is full of blackberry, currant, and capsicum aromatics. There are also notes of black pepper and violets, creating a dichotomy of sweet and savoury in the glass. The palate is bone dry with great tannic structure that will lend itself well to a few years in the cellar. Hold off on opening until 2019 if you can, but if you do have it now decant for at least an hour and serve with rustic flavours like grilled lamb or roast duck. (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.