Discover the Unique Charm of Niagara’s Newest Addition: Black Bank Hill

By | 5 July 2024


Taylor Emerson and John McLean are cousins, and they are the folk behind an exciting new winery in the Lincoln Lakeshore subdistrict of Niagara. John, who makes the wines, moved here from out west in 2021 where he was assistant winemaker at Le Vieux Pin in the Okanagan Valley.

Taylor purchased this site in 2017 and planted the vineyard in 2018 and 2019. By 2020, they had 20 acres. Here, we have heavy clay soils that were once part of a glacial lake bed. It’s north bench, or sub-bench.

The vineyards look very good: they did no-till for the first few years but this year have done some limited tillage. All the grapes are hand-harvested, and both reds and whites go through a basket press. Last year, 2023, they processed 51 tons, but in 2022, the harvest was just 14 tons as a result of a very cold winter.

In the winery, everything is now gravity flow and they don’t pump solids. No sulfites are added until after primary fermentation is finished, and the premium whites are unfined and unfiltered. No acid is added and ferments are wild.

The winery building was built in 2022, and before this, they were making wines at Cloudsley. The older vintages of Black Bank were made from bought-in grapes when this was a virtual winery.

‘I came to Niagara with a bit of scepticism coming from the Okanagan,’ says John, ‘but my mind has been changed.’

Treve Ring (TR) tasted the wines a couple of months ago, and I tasted last week (JG). Our notes below.

Black Bank Hill Runway Rosé 2022 Lincoln Lakeshore
12.5% alcohol. Cabernet Franc with 6% Merlot. Pale pink in colour. This is textured and smooth with a slight salinity and appealing pear and cherry fruit. Nicely weighted and with a sweet core to the fruit and some fine spices. 90/100 (JG)

Black Bank Hill Runway White 2021 Lincoln Lakeshore
Chardonnay, Viognier (both of these barrel fermented for 18 months), Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc. Fresh, fruity and lively with nice citrus core and then some grapey richness, finishing with lemony acidity. Nice presence to this wine, with some energy. 91/100 (JG)

Runway White, named for the 1918 Beamsville Aerodrome and runway that preceded the vineyard, is a blend of 46% Viognier, 26% Gewürztraminer, 17% Chardonnay, 11% Chenin Blanc planted in 2018. Each variety was native fermented separately (mix of French oak and stainless) over 18 months. Subtle white perfume, pear, cream, and lemon sail through this medium white, with very light barrel toast and a well placed bed of lees. Nice elegance and light touch for this aromatic white blend. 89/100 (TR)

Black Bank Hill Viognier 2021 Lincoln Lakeshore
Three barrels made. You have to crop this low: if you go for more than 3.5 tons hectare you just end up with water. Fresh and detailed with some peach and apricot as well as some citrus. Has a hint of mint with nice texture, and some fine spices. 92/100 (JG)

Black Bank Hill Chardonnay 2021 Lincoln Lakeshore
13.5% alcohol. Lively with nice depth to the pear and peach fruit. There’s some spicy detail, a touch of mealiness, has some depth of fruit and a twist of almond. Nice weight and balance. 92/100 (JG)

Black Bank Hill Chardonnay 2020 Twenty Mile Bench
From Twenty Mile Bench’s Wingfield Vineyard, this chardonnay was whole bunch pressed, settled, and racked into 2nd and 3rd use French barrels for native ferment and 19 months’ rest on lees. Creamy and expansive with lemon curd, lemon blossom, white peach, and toasted coconut across a lees-decked, medium bodied palate. The end lingers with river stones. A smart, modern wine of place, I look forward to future editions. 90/100 (TR)

Black Bank Hill Fraternité 2022 Lincoln Lakeshore
Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, one barrel made. A serendipitous blend because of the vintage. Highly aromatic with mandarin and lychee. Lovely texture: fresh and dry with a lovely spiciness. Very expressive with great balance. 93/100 (JG)

Black Bank Hill Pinot Noir 2020 Twenty Mile Bench
This PN blends two vineyards : Glen Elgin and End of the Road Vineyard. This was destemmed and lightly crushed with a native ferment and 18 months’ rest in neutral French barrels before blending and light filtration. Wild raspberry, perfumed cherry is framed with fine, long, black tea tannins which carry this elegant, finessed wine to a lengthy, stony finish. Really quite impressive, and a winery to watch. 92/100 (TR)

Black Bank Hill Runway Red 2021 Lincoln Lakeshore
Runway Red, named for the 1918 Beamsville Aerodrome and runway that preceded the vineyard, is a blend of 59% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 13% Pinot Noir, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Syrah. Each varietal was vinified separately, native fermented and aged 17 months in mostly neutral French oak. Bright, tight plum, cassis, and herbal green stems rule this medium red, with lightly furry tannins and a dusting of peppery baking spice on the finish. 89/100 (TR)

Black Bank Hill Runway Red 2020 Lincoln Lakeshore
12.8% alcohol. 60% Merlot with the balance equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The first wine from estate fruit. Supple, fresh, and sappy with bright redcurrant and raspberry fruit. Juicy, vivid, and bright with a bit of grippy tannin and sour cherry on the finish. Lovely. 92/100 (JG)

Black Bank Hill Cabernet Franc 2019 Twenty Mile Bench
From Foxcroft Vineyard. Gravelly and intense with dense blackcurrant fruit and nice structure. This is dense and well-structured. Firm and satisfying with some savory, tarry, spicy detail. Chunky, dense, but still fresh. 91/100 (JG)

Black Bank Hill Syrah 2021 Lincoln Lakeshore
12.5% alcohol. Lovely aromatics: peppery, bright, and vivid with sweet red cherries. The palate is bright and intense with nice acidity and some grainy, grippy tannins. This is focused with lovely fruit, showing precision and intensity. Nice grip on the finish. 93/100 (JG)

Black Bank Hill Syrah 2023 Lincoln Lakeshore (barrel sample)
10% whole cluster, harvested November 3rd. Beautiful floral aromatics with sweet red cherries and plums. The palate is bright and focused with supple, juicy red cherries and raspberries, showing beautifully. Fine peppery finish, layered and detailed. 94/100 (JG)

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