“It all started with a dream and a shovel”.
Blue flames and illuminated barrels flanking golden initials, DV, are the first things you see upon entering the stylish retail store at De Simone Vineyards in Niagara-on-The-Lake. Vincenzo Robert De Simone, the Owner, Winemaker, Vineyard Manager and decorator of Niagara’s newest winery, will greet you warmly and offer to pour one of his excellent reserve and estate wines.
“My father and I planted it all by hand, with a shovel,” Vincenzo says of the eight acres of vineyard. Working with his hands comes naturally to Vincenzo, who grew up on his family’s fruit farm, now the site of the De Simone Vineyards Winery. His intimate knowledge of the land and his training at Niagara College, as well as work experience at wineries in the region for over a decade, prepared him for his destiny: opening a winery where all the grapes were grown by Vincenzo himself. “I have complete control from the vineyard to that bottle of wine. Everything is hand picked, and hand-sorted, we are very keen on quality. All of our wines are VQA, which guarantees our customers we are producing quality wine.” Having such control over every detail is part of what is special about this intimate boutique winery. “The grapes we use are from our vineyard only, it classifies all of our wines as reserve and estate wine, which are higher end wines,” says Vincenzo proudly.
At 27 years of age, Vincenzo is part of a generation that is more vocal and knowledgeable than ever about chemicals in what we eat and drink. Instead of spraying herbicides to kill the weeds, he covers them with dirt in a process he calls “Hilling up and hilling down,” where a tractor, suited with a special tool, constantly works the soil and suffocates the weeds.
“It’s really a natural method and I honestly wish more farmers would do that here,” says Vincenzo. “The reason we only use our own grapes is because we do NOT use herbicides in our vineyard. We know herbicides are cancerous and actually end up in the wine. The older you get, the wiser you get and me being a younger person, I feel that is where the younger generation is learning. We don’t want chemicals in our foods and wines. I want people to feel safe drinking my wine and you can honestly taste a difference in the product.”
The attention to detail he gives his vineyard shows in his wines. The white wines are fruit forward, well-balanced and fresh on the palate. The reds are bold and rich yet humble and easy to drink, as if the personality of the winemaker himself is transferred into your glass. The Cabernet Franc vines were the first vines planted in 2010 and seem to be achieving the greatest success to date.
Within only months of the winery being opened, the 2015 Cabernet Franc won 3rd place in Ontario at the Royal Winter Fair. Shortly after, both the 2015 and the 2016 Cabernet Franc won bronze at the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada. A great start for De Simone Vineyards! The awards don’t stop there. Their 2016 Cabernet Franc also came home with a silver medal at the 2018 InterVin Competition. Awards aside, if you ask Vincenzo what his favorite wine is that he makes, it would be his limited edition 2016 Merlot. “It is unlike any Merlot in the Niagara Region.’’
For now, the available wines are: Whites: Chardonnay, Vidal (table-wine and ice wine) and Riesling. For reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and Rosé. (Where to buy: at the De Simone retail store 865 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-On-The-Lake).
De Simone Vineyards only produces 1000 cases of wine per year and Vincenzo has plans to triple that number in the coming years. The elegant De Simone label features a golden horse, which Vincenzo selected for what the animal represents. “I’m very determined and passionate about what I’m doing here, when I came across the meaning of a horse I had to put it on the label. The Horse represents strength, freedom, determination and passion; it’s a symbol of strong motivation that carries one through life.” After Vincenzo opened the winery he discovered he was born during the year of the horse and specifically the year of the golden horse. “It was just meant to be.”
Watch for the colourful vineyard paintings that decorate the tasting room; in a moment of inspiration Vincenzo put his hand to a canvass for the first time and painted a landscape just before opening his winery. “I didn’t even know I could paint. I pay a lot of attention to detail in everything I do and that is also why I believe the wines are good.”
In addition to wine, honey from the De Simone farm, jellies infused with wine from the property as well as tomato sauce made by Vincenzo’s mother, are sold at their retail store.
With six awards for Vincenzo’s first season and more to come, De Simone may be the new kid on the block but he is starting off with all the makings of a fine Winemaker. We will certainly hear more and more about De Simone Vineyards in the future. Look for the big DV letters when driving through Niagara-on-the-Lake, and be sure to stop in and try the wines.