NIAGARA UNCORKED: Mount Carmel puts faith in wine

Icewine Mount Carmel

Wines made at monasteries have always been highly regarded. In fact, some might say that quality wines were perfected in the Middle Ages by monks.

The brothers of Mount Carmel Monastery hope to continue that tradition, this time on Canadian soil.

The Niagara Falls monastery was founded in 1875 by the Carmelites, a Roman Catholic religious order and has survived a devastating fire at the Stanley Road location.

In 2013, it partnered with Reif Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake for Monastery Cellars.

“What the monastery wanted to do was make the whole building and facilities they have financially feasible and sustainable,” said Klaus Reif.

“The building beside Loretto sold for development, and the fathers don’t want to go the same route. They want to maintain the buildings, to stay there, and to do so they need to generate some income.

“It’s reality, in life it doesn’t matter who you are what you do, even if you’re close to God you have to pay your bills,” he added.

The Carmelites interviewed a few wineries to see which ones would participate in the effort before deciding on Reif Estate.

“If you look back in history it’s believed that in 1794 the first icewine was made at a monastery in Germany.

Reif explained that, according to legend, one year the fathers didn’t pick their grapes in time and the bishop announced that he would shortly visit as winter set in.

Fearing reprimand, they went out in the middle of the night and picked the grapes then pressed the grapes while they were frozen.

“I’m sure I can say that Germany made the first icewine, but Canada perfected it,” said Reif. “So here we are again making icewine at this monastery in Canada, so we have this loop.

“A cool project and a cool place, when you can combine your passion for wine and a good cause. We don’t want this building to be developed into a hotel. They (Carmelites) want to maintain the history of this building.”

In 2013 two hectares alongside the monastery were graded, and vines were planted.

Last year a retail store was opened, and 2.8 hectares of grapes across the road were added.

Not only does that increase the number of grapes, said Reif, but it also gives another element to visitors of the area.

“We’re positively surprised on the how the grapes grew, the quality and yield. We were a bit afraid, Niagara Falls is a bit colder than what we have in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Humidity and pests could have been a problem, but everything turned out better than expected,” said Reif.

The versatile vidal grape was chosen because of the vineyards’ climatic conditions and because vidal lends itself to good quality icewines, Reif said.

Not as sweet as one might expect, Monatery Cellars’ icewine exudes peach, apricot and honey. It’s smooth and delightful given a slight chill.

Even though many people use icewine in cocktails or cooking, this one deserves to shine on its own.

Alongside a red and white wine Monastery Cellars’ Vidal Icewine 2015 is available only at the monastery for $75.


Photo Credits and Captions: Monastery Cellars’ vidal icewine. (Bob Tymczyszyn/Standard Staff)