Icellars Winery forges ahead – one of Niagara-on-the-lake’s best wineries
If you don’t already know Icellars Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-lake, you’re in for a real treat. Icellars is renowned for its celebrated wines of distinction. The estate winery, owned and operated by Adnan and Elif Icel, is always on the cutting edge of innovation and growth.
Customers and reviewers rave about their Wiyana Wanda’s raspberry, black cherry, and chocolate overtones, their full-bodied Pinot Noir, and all of their varietals. Icellars’ small-batch wines are made from hand-harvested grapes and picked when they’re the ripest to deliver the most complex, rich aromas and tastes.
Ongoing innovation and improvement sets Icellars’ wine portfolio apart
The owners’ mindset of moving forward with new ideas and improvements has been setting their superb wine portfolio apart ever since they opened in 2010. I dropped in at the winery yesterday and spoke with Elif, who gave me a brief rundown of their latest developments.
Icellars is now a Certified Sustainable vineyard and winery
Icellars’ vineyard and winery recently became a Certified Sustainable operation. This was awarded by a third-party assessment of the winery’s practices including:
- Water conservation practices
- Energy efficiency
- The reduction and reuse of materials
- Sourcing of materials locally
- Community leadership
- Social responsibility
Organic farming practices are quickly taking Icellars to the Certified Organic distinction
“As we wanted to have full control of our grapes, we hired a full-time Vineyard Manager, Mark Williamson, a graduate of the Niagara College Winemaking program. Mark has had extensive vineyard management experience in many Ontario wineries.”Adnan and Elif Icel, owners of Icellars Estate Winery
The timing was excellent for Icellars to start organic farming right away, with Mark’s inclusion. They are very happy with the results so far. It takes 36 months to be Certified Organic and they have already completed the first 12 months.
4 more acres of Malbec recently planted
Icellars continues to plant new vines and keep cultivating. The winery is planning to answer their customers’ requests and make varietal Malbec with their new bloc of Malbec grapes. In earlier years, their small Malbec production was used for their Arinna and Wiyana Wanda blends.
In addition to their large online following, Icellars Estate Winery has a very enthusiastic cadre of real-life fans with whom they share an ongoing in-person dialog. When their loyal customers ask for something, Icellars answers.
Newly-released 2019 Pinot Noir
This is the Icel family’s first Pinot Noir that they produced in a fruit-forward, easy-drinking style. It comes with a screw cap and sells for only $30. Going forward, the winery plans to have two distinctive styles of Pinot Noir in their portfolio – all from their own grapes but made in two different winemaking styles.
When I first tried Icellars’ 2016 Pinot Noir a couple of years ago, I enjoyed its fruity aroma and its vibrant, spicy flavour with a long, rich finish. I had a visualization about this wine – that you basically find the vineyard, lay down with the grapes, and get to know them.
The newly-released 2019 Pinot Noir still inspires you and makes you want to know more. It has a faint apple and cherry aroma with grassy hints. The deep, robust flavour is entirely berry with a suggestion of nutmeg and vanilla. Its full finish tingles like early blueberries.
Wine tasting sets are popular for virtual tastings and business events
During the last year, the Icels created mini-bottle wine tasting sets when COVID-19 prevented all the wineries from holding in-person tastings. The mini-bottle sets have been hugely popular for virtual tastings, virtual business meetings, and for anyone who wants to taste their wine portfolio – and then decide what to order.
Filling and packaging service available to other Niagara region wineries in autumn 2021
After creating and shipping thousands of mini-bottle wine tasting sets, the winery owners believe they have sufficiently improved the filling and packaging process to offer it to other wineries. Starting in fall 2021, they will offer this service to other local wineries who want to have a similar tasting set program. All a winery has to do is deliver its wine to Icellars in 750ml bottles; Icellars will send them back small bottles with labels and packaging completely done.
The owners of Icellars are purists who inspire you
It can happen in any walk of life. When you come across someone who won’t be deterred from their ideals, you innately feel inspired. That’s what I felt in all three summers that I dropped into Icellars Winery to chat with the people who own the operation and make it sing.
Icellars Estate Winery makes outstanding wine with passion and perfection. When Icellars tend their fruit, they discard over 50% of it to enable the strongest grapes to grow even stronger. The owners and staff go through the vineyard and examine each vine, throwing out the weaker fruit so that the remaining ones can become more enriched.
But that’s not the only way this unique Niagara-on-the-lake winery goes the extra mile. There are many more ways the purist label fits. Their social media page shows them heading out to the vineyard at 5:00 a.m. to start the day’s work on a summer’s day, just before sunrise.
Since opening in 2010, this winery has avoided tactics such as gift glasses, free souvenirs, or encouraging the stopovers of bus tours to market their offerings. Instead, they pour all of their creativity and talents into the wine itself. Their approach definitely pays off.
Locally recommended for best wineries in Niagara-on-the-lake
Being one of the best wineries in Niagara-on-the-lake tends to be amplified by word of mouth as well as on social media. I had initially heard about Icellars Winery in Niagara while making conversation at a Grimsby fruit stand on Highway 8 one summer Saturday in 2019. I had asked them what winery in Niagara-on-the-lake they would most highly recommend. Without missing a beat, one of the family members that owns the fruit orchard declared “Icellars”. Locals who live and breathe what comes from the land have opinions that you just don’t dismiss.
Icellars Winery Niagara location
Icellars Winery Niagara is slightly secluded, tucked at the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment in view of Brock’s monument which towers above it from Queenston Park. The winery’s location is at the opposite end of Niagara-on-the-lake from the Old Town. This part of Niagara wine country feels untouched and is still somewhat rural, giving you the opportunity to wander on country roads and get away from it all.