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Since its introduction in 1998, the Trius line grew to include white, sparkling and icewines.  Originally, the idea was to blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot (trius) and produces top-of-the-line red wines using the Bordeaux winemaking practices as a model.

Since the winery owns substantial acreage on the shores of Lake Ontario and has many first-rate grapes growers under long-term contact, the selection of the best barrels is possible and judiciously followed.

J L Groulx, the head winemaker of Hillebrand until recently, started the Trius line and expanded it to four so far.  In addition to Trius red, a Chardonnay is produced. It is aged a minimum of three months, the sparkling wines consists of three grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  The Trius icewine is barrel fermented and aged for at least three months.

Hillebrand winemakers as a matter of policy, set aside the best barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot which may be  as many as 500, pending on vintage, (just as an interesting side observation the winery buys 1400 now barrels a year, and retires approximately 1000 by selling them to landscape companies and specialized stores catering to home gardeners); of those set aside the best are selected for the blend. The proportions of grape varieties in the red Trius change according to the vintage. In 1998 the proportions were Cabernet Sauvignon 63 %, Cabernet Franc 22%, Merlot 15 %; in 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon 60 %, Cabernet Franc 23 % and Merlot 17 %; in 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon 52 %, Cabernet franc 35 % and Merlot 13 %; and 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon 50 %, Cabernet Franc 47 % and Merlot 3 %.

Recently, Hillebrand made available four Trius red and four Chardonnay wines from its wine library for a special tasting to demonstrate how these wines age and how the vintage affects both aroma (bouquet) and flavour intensity.

Of the four Trius red vintages, 1998 was the best aromatically and texturally. It is ready now, but can be cellared for another two to three years. When the wine was released in 2000, the price was $ 19.95, now (2004) it is being re-released at $ 40.-. The policy on Trius is 80 percent of the production is offered at first, and five percent at subsequent years until the stock is depleted.

The 1999 showed very well with good berry aromas and full body, but needs one to two more years of cellaring.

The 2000 exudes chocolaty aromas, has a medium body. A fine wine to enjoy but lacks the intensity of both 1998 and 1999 vintages.

The 2001 vintage exudes vegetal aromas, possibly due to an elevated Cabernet Franc component of the blend that was harvested a bit to early. Still a very enjoyable wine, but would not last too long.

All Chardonnays were vinted from the Lakeshore vineyard fruit, barrel-fermented, aged on their lees for one year in French cooperage (90 percent) and 10 percent in American oak barrels and stirred monthly to extract maximum flavour. Full malolactic fermentation initiated for a buttery smooth and rich texture.

Of the 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, the 1999 stood out with a buttery texture apple and pear aromas and excellent after taste. The 1998 was fine, but starting to show its age in colour and aromatic vivacity.
2000 and 2001 had to my palate, an unusual sweetness and lack of exuberant fruit possibly due to low acidity and high alcohol.

Trius Chardonnay wines are produced from the fruit of three distinct regions in the Niagara Peninsula; Lakeshore, Beamsville Bench and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

A comparative tasting could prove very interesting.
In all, this unique tasting proved that Niagara Peninsula has a natural division of sub-appellations worth formalizing as the French have done in 1935, the Portuguese well before that and Hungarians even before the Portuguese.

Large wineries like Hillenbrand with large inventories of component wines can create outstanding wines by judicious blending. These wines if properly blended from outstanding components are worth cellaring.

NIAGARA VINTAGES 1998, 1999, 2000 AND 2001
* 1998 - Warm growing season with less than average precipitation and fully ripe grapes picked earlier than usual.

* 1999 - Warm spring led into a warm summer and 100 mm more rain than in 1998. A fine early vintage with fully ripe fruit.

* 2000 - Wet spring, but fine long warm fall ripened grapes fully. Below normal rainfall helped increase sugar levels. The harvest stretched well into November. This vintage marked a significant vintage in that for the first time in the history of Ontario viticulture vinifera grape harvest surpassed hybrid tonnage.

* 2001- Spring began on a dry note, but groundwater levels from 2000 were high enough to compensate for the shortfall. The summer was hotter than average and rain less than normal. An early harvest brought in fully ripe fruit. Some vineyards were affected with the lady bug insect

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu

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